A challenge faced by school systems around the world is that the general public — and even parents and students — do not appreciate or even recognize the crucial role of teachers. Recognizing that the future of humanity lies in the hands of today’s students, the Weizmann Institute launched the Rothschild–Weizmann Program for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching in 2008 with the aim of bolstering the very backbone of the education system – its educators – and shifting that momentum.
Given the rapid pace of scientific discovery, school textbooks are never enough to keep teachers and students up to date. The Program for Excellence in Science Teaching was established to empower science teachers and increase their motivation by providing them with unique opportunities to expand their knowledge. The long-term goal of the program is to serve as a trigger for raising the bar for science teaching across Israel.
According to Education International, a global union federation of teachers’ trade unions, improving teaching outcomes is a complex issue that needs to be addressed at many levels, including:
• The education system,
• The teaching labour force,
• Regional/local arrangements,
• The local school, and,
• The individual teacher.
This revolutionary Weizmann program takes aim specifically at the individual level by elevating the quality of teachers and their engagement with students.
Teachers who graduate from the Rothschild–Weizmann Program for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching receive a non-thesis MSc degree in science teaching. The program focuses on elevating the pedagogical standard for high school biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics, with the goal of developing top quality teachers that become influential educators and leaders in their communities, who can instill a sense of enthusiasm for science in students. Additionally, training teachers from disadvantaged communities offers at-risk students greater opportunities to increase their access to knowledge and technology, paving their way to a brighter future.
The program’s graduates are recognized by the Israel Ministry of Education and are regarded as “national consultants,” who mentor other science teachers, lead professional learning communities, and participate in creating national science curriculum. Graduates not only influence other teachers at their schools, but take on leadership roles in the education system on both community and national levels – expanding their impact to all levels of the education system.
Teachers learn about scientific topics that are at the heart of the world’s current research priorities – like nanotechnology and environmental sustainability – enabling graduates to engage in new programs that are relevant to current global challenges.
Since the program started, over 370 teachers have graduated, with 97 per cent of graduates going on to teach in high schools.
With additional exposure to community and national opportunities, graduates have the potential to change how their profession is perceived by parents, students, decision-makers, and the public at large. When systems are in place to help improve how teachers teach, they can grow and inspire new generations of future scientists.
The Rothschild–Weizmann Program for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching is graciously supported by the Morris and Rosalind Goodman Family Foundation, aligning with their mission to “improve formal and experiential education by supporting high-quality, innovative programs.”
“I learned a lot from the final project and what I did was worth more than the two credit points that I earned. It is like a master’s thesis. Our investment in this degree is huge, but I am glad we invested in getting this degree and am glad for everything that we received during this period. It is a degree I feel really honored to hold. I feel that I studied towards a degree in biology, not just in science education. In the past, I taught more intuitively, but now I know what I am doing professionally.” -Orly
“The final project was challenging. Being mentored by Dr. Gilat Brill and Dr. Rachel Cohen from the Department of Science Teaching and Dr. Inbal Flash-Gvili, previously from the Department of Science Teaching, was a great privilege. The courses taught by Dr. Nina Reuven and Dr. Orna Dahan, from the Department of Molecular Genetics, and Dr. Dan Michael from the Feinberg Graduate School, added to my self-efficacy. It gives me real pride to hold such a degree.” -Shira
“The courses in biology were outstanding. They enriched us with knowledge we did not have at all.” -Rachel
“The final project was challenging. While writing the final project I felt lost. During the first year, we practiced writing the introduction and the methodology, but I eventually had to write it all over again to fit my actual inquiry. Dr. Rachel Cohen helped a lot. She gave a final direction to my project when I did know how to approach it. The degree is very meaningful to me. It helped me develop my confidence in my own abilities. It gave me a lot professionally—knowledge, tools. I am a different teacher today than I was two years ago. My intuition is now based on solid theory.” -Inna
“Connecting everything into one puzzle was difficult. Only when I wrote out the final project did it all fall in place. During the first year, we learned the theory separate from the actual practice. I am glad I did these studies while I am still young. It opened new doors for me in science education. Before I studied here, I thought the most important thing was to make sure I transferred all the content to the students. Learning about the scientific practices completely changed the way I look at teaching now. This degree helped me build my personality. I learned a lot about myself. I had many challenges. Studying here was very intense.” -Dvora
• Approximately 60% of the program’s graduates hold key positions in the educational system.
• The program consistently has a high ratio of Arab and female students – averaging about 30% Arab, and over 65% women.