Knesset committee slams Israel’s education ministry for ‘illegal’ tablet program

The Knesset Education Committee on Tuesday harshly criticized an Education Ministry program introducing tablets, purchased by parents, into the classroom.

According to the committee’s legal adviser, the plan is illegal as it now stands, because parents’ consent had not been obtained. The committee members were unanimous in their opinion that the plan is problematic as it now stands and that the ministry should not ask the parents to purchase the tablets. In keeping with the opinion of the adviser, Merav Yisraeli, the committee chairman, MK Yakov Margi (Shas) asked the Education Ministry to immediately cease the program, known as BYOD, for “bring your own device,” which is being conducted as a pilot in dozens of schools.

“The Education Ministry put the cart before the horse and did so against the law and without supervision or research. We will ask the state comptroller to look into parents’ claims with regard to the health and pedagogic risks, as well as the damage to the principle of equality,” Margi said.

Discussion in the committee was called for by MKs Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union), Yifat Shasha-Biton (Kulanu) and Michal Rozin (Meretz). Parents whose children are part of the program were also present.

“We have come here with the pain of parents who have lost faith in the state school system,” Bracha Klimstein-Levi, a school parent from Hod Hasharon who is leading the anti-BYOD fight, told the committee. “We believe in the system’s responsibility and authority, but when we saw this project going wild before our very eyes, and the pressure on parents with clichés about conforming to the 21st century, we lost faith.” Klimstein-Levi said there was a “jungle of officials in the Education Ministry who are forcing the parents to purchase tablets costing thousands of shekels.”

Shasha-Biton added, “Significant learning can also take place with tabletop computers without unnecessary radiation.”

Rozin said she attached great value to making knowledge accessible to students. “However, with regard to tablets,” she noted, “the education system must build an organized program with clear goals and pedagogical oversight for teachers, so the tablets won’t become just another book. I also believe the ministry must fully fund the tablet project so inequality will not be created in the classroom.”

In its response, the Education Ministry did not mention the claim regarding the program’s illegality. “The Education Ministry will continue to prepare Israel’s children for the 21st century and inculcate computerization in schools, including technological progress, while maintaining pedagogical, social and health aspects for the students,” the ministry stated.

The ministry said the computerization program included “200 schools as an advanced model in which every student will have an end device (tablet or laptop).” The ministry also said “joining the program is conditioned on the consent of at least 70 percent of the parents.”

Purchase of the tablet is voluntary, the ministry said, “and there is no force of any kind applied to make the purchase.” The ministry added the schools involved in the pilot receive a grant of 100,000 shekels (about $26,300) “to assist schools and parents in the initial purchase. A school can use this sum in any way it sees fit, partly or entirely to make purchases for students who cannot afford the devices.”

Source: http://www.haaretz.com/news/israel/1.663764

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