Israel is encouraging and financing a new form of patriotism by offering bonuses to high school teachers who succeed in motivating students to do their army service. The move has sparked a wave of criticism of the Ministry of Education.
The initiative by the Ministry of Education that circulated in schools last year outlined the new policy of granting end of year bonuses to full-time teachers in Israel’s schools based on “achievements in learning”, ”social achievements”, and “achievements in values”.
The top 40 per cent of schools with a “high rate of enlistment for military, national or civil service” will receive funds to award their teachers with bonuses, according to the circular obtained by the Christian Science Monitor.
Those ranked among top ten percent will receive funds to grant bonuses in the amount of $2,160, while an equivalent of $1,620 will be paid for the next 10 per cent.
Critics of the move by the ministry say the militarization of the education system infringes on the future generation’s ability to participate in Middle East peace-making. Supporters say recuitment must remain high to ensure the security of the nation, citing army complaints that the percentage of young people taking up military service has dropped in recent years.
Those who oppose the pay scheme say that military propaganda comes at the cost of student education.
“Educating to prepare for the army and to encourage enlistment comes at the expense of regular education, which is meant to educate for democracy and citizenship,” Sharaf Hassan, educational director for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel told the Monitor.
Such an approach can also result in xenophobia, argues the former education minister Yossi Sarid.
“The ministry of education is taking Israel in a more militaristic, more nationalistic, more xenophobic, and more chauvinistic direction. It’s not education, it’s a sort of indoctrination,” Sarid said.
The education ministry claims that the bonus program is “designed to develop excellence among teachers and pupils.”
To survive, surrounded by enemies and threats, says a spokesman for former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Raanan Gissin, “everyone has to take part in defense and that means three years of military service.”