This is just one in a series of ongoing posts on the educational innovations in Israel. You can see additional coverage here.
I learned a lot about learning after serving as one of five edubloggers participating in the #VibeEdu Innovation in Education Tour organized by Vibe Israel, a non-profit organization with a mission to promote Israel as a vibrant hub of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship. After a week of crossing the country, visiting places, companies, and organizations, and meeting students and adults, I discovered innovative practices that are incorporated into their schools and culture.
Below are some of the lessons I learned that contribute to making Israel the #2 country in the world for students going to university and resulting in one of the lowest unemployment rates for those under 30. As you read each lesson think about which you may be able to use to support student success where you work.
1) Give and You Shall Receive
If you want community support, you must support the community. The First Robotics Y Team 3211 of Yeruham needs donations from the community to fund these young makers. The students don't just engage in innovative projects, but rather the projects they select often support the community. They have made several small cars which they call bimbas for children who are unable to walk.
This strategy seems to have paid off in more ways than one. The team took the gold at 2014 FIRST Tech Challenge in the US. The Robotics team has a goal to reach 2000 likes on their Facebook page. The students ask that you please check out what students in Israel are doing with robotics by visiting and liking their page at https://www.facebook.com/frc.3211/
-The Y Team FRC 3211-Yeruham
2) Informality + Nonhierarchical Culture Breeds Innovation + Entrepreneurship
Because of its culture of informality and nonhierarchy connections can be made among those who have achieved acclaimed success and those just starting out with fresh ideas. The two having access to each other in a climate of informality is a breeding ground for innovation and entrepreneurship. Think about a school context and what this means for students to access experts in areas they are interested in. Think about what this means for students wanting to access education leaders or policy makers. When those affected by policy and power can access those in power and making policy, understandings arise.
-Saul Singer, author of StartUp Nation
3) Learn in Context
If students study what they care about they remember what they study.
-Moshe Dolev, Director of a youth village, Mevo'ot Yam
4) Fund-raise Sustainably
Don’t ask potential donors for money for one year. Ask them for an investment so they become partners with you. Get about ⅓ up front and the rest over several years. This way you are in it together. Include the donors as when celebrating success. Help them be a part of the school.
-Mayor Michael Biton of Yeruham City who has transformed the remote desert town into a hub buzzing with innovative education.
5) Military Provides a Vehicle for College + Career Readiness
Most companies and colleges would recruit an Israeli in their early 20s with military experience over a young person without it. The military teaches colleges and businesses to read a military resume and both find these students are prepared for success. We must think of experiences we can provide to our citizens to change this.
-Saul Singer, author of START-UP NATION
6) Youth Movements Unite Students Via A Cause
Israeli children join a local youth movement which has a philosophy tied to something they care about (usually political or religious). Israeli adults say this helped them forge some of the most significant friendships and experiences of their childhood.
-Various students and adults
7) Motivate via Interests
If you want people to be interested in what you are sharing, share what they are interested in. This is the strategy used by Vibe Israel. The company aims to promote Israel as a vibrant hub of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship and they show how this is done to online influencers in their area of interest.
-Joanna Landau, Founder of Vibe Israel
8) Importance of Relationships
You must know a student’s heart, to reach a student’s mind. To achieve success educators learned everything about the child and their family and were there to support them whenever needed.
-Shared as the key to success at every school we visited.
9) Creation Beats Consumption
Breeding an endangered or celebrity species (think clownfish in finding Nemo) is better than buying one.
-Student at the Mevo’ot Yam Youth Village School
10) Start Learning a Second Language Early
Many students start learning a 2nd language by 2nd grade. Most I spoke with said it is rare to become fluent in languages they haven’t begun learning in elementary school.
-The airport escort
11) Exciting Environments Attract Outstanding Teachers
If you want to attract the best teachers, make the place they come to work exciting. Michael Biton did this in Yeruham by providing educators with the opportunity to support students with social activism, leadership, and community involvement with education. Tehila Ben Ari does this because she created a state-of-the-art science center for her staff.
-Michael Biton, Mayor of Yeruham City and Tehila Ben Ari, Director of HEMDA
12) Learn by Doing
Learning by doing is more fun than learning by listening.
-Student at the Mevo’ot Yam Youth Village School
13) Question Authority
Israelis are educated to challenge the obvious, ask questions, debate everything, innovate. This means "Do as you're told." goes out the window. This means, students deserve answers to questions like, "When will I ever really need to know this."
-Saul Singer, author of StartUp Nation quoting Intel Israel Sr VP, Mooley Eden
14) Out with Competition. In with Community
Unlike an education culture based on competition seen in other countries, Israel has a more community-focused vibe. Part of the cohesiveness is due to the shared religious upbringing of Israelis and the shared value of helping others in need. They care deeply about the education of their children and the community will come together to ensure success for every child.
-Visible factor across schools and community
These are some of the lessons I learned during my week in Israel. Is there a lesson here resonated with you? Is there something shared that could be helpful for how you view or address learning? Are there any lessons you don’t agree with? If so, please share in the comments.
Photo credit: Amit Shemesh - www.amitshemesh.com