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Management Analysis of the Technion's Proactive Approach and Contribution to High School STEM Education in Israel
This paper describes how the Technion's proactive approach towards STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education in Israel, though it originated in a very honest desire to contribute to Israeli high school STEM education, it has, in fact, several economical merits and can be highlighted by well-known management principles.
Specifically, I will focus on the Views program, which the Technion launched three years ago. Views is the abbreviation in Hebrew of Engineers/scientists in Science and Technology Education. I will first describe the program and then I will analyze it from a business perspective.
The background story of Views is the shortage in high school STEM teachers that many Western countries, including Israel, are currently facing. In order to cope with this shortage, the Technion launched the Views program three years ago, in 2011. The objective of Views is to help alleviate this shortage in Israel by providing Technion graduates with an additional profession - high school STEM teachers - that they will be able to use if and when they choose to switch to education.
Views invites Technion graduates back to the Technion to study toward an additional bachelor's degree in its Department of Education in Science and Technology. The degree they earn includes a high school teaching certificate for STEM subjects in one of 8 tracks: math, physics, biology, chemistry, computer science, environmental sciences, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering.
Technion graduates enrolled in the Views program receive full study scholarships from the Technion for two years. Since the number of credits required to complete this degree is similar to that required for an MBA, the students study one day or two half-days a week for two years, like in MBA programs, and can continue working in parallel to their studies.
Although the Technion graduates who are enrolled in the Views program receive full study scholarships from the Technion for two years, they are not required to commit to teaching in the education system. They are not asked to commit to teaching in the education system since the knowledge they gain in the Views program is also useful in the high tech industry for coping with new knowledge and technological developments. Thus, even if they decide not to switch to education, they will still contribute to Israel's prosperity, but in a different way.
At the moment, 207 Technion graduates are enrolled in the Views program: 45 started in its first year - 2012; 70 started in its second year, and 92 started their studies in the 2013-2014.
In what follows, the Views program will be analyzed from a business perspective. I will show how it relates to, and is supported by, the following ten business-oriented ideas and principles:
1. Knowledge Economy Index (KEI)
3. Risk management
5. Change management
7. All win
8. The job market
9. The Gini index
10. Connecting academia-education-industry
1. Knowledge Economy
The World Bank's Knowledge Economy Index (KEI) represents a country's overall level of development towards the Knowledge Economy. It measures a country's ability to generate, adopt and diffuse knowledge and indicates whether the environment encourages knowledge to be used effectively for economic development. In 2012, Israel ranked in twenty fifth place on the KEI. In 2000, Israel ranked 18. The KEI is calculated based on a country's scores on 4 pillars that relate to the knowledge economy. The first pillar is economic and institutional regime; Israel's rank in 2012 was 26. The second pillar is educated and skilled population; in 2012, Israel was ranked in 41 place. The third pillar is an innovation system; in 2012, Israel's rank on this pillar was 9. The forth pillar is Information and communication technology; Israel's rank on ICT is 20.
The pillar that dramatically decreased Israel's position is the educated and skilled population pillar. This pillar is about people and it measures a country's ability to create, share, and use knowledge well; as mentioned, in 2012, Israel ranked on this pillar in the 41 place. This means that Israel, as a nation, does not know how to create, share, or use knowledge well. Since the Views program is about learning, it may improve Israel's score on this pillar.
Being Proactive is one of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People - a book written by Stephen R. Covey and first published in 1989.Being proactive means planning ahead and anticipating problems. Being reactive (which is the opposite of proactive) means waiting for problems to appear before addressing them.
In December 2010, the Technion president, Professor Perets Lavie was interviewed by a daily Israeli newsletter. The title of the interview was Science Education in Israel is Collapsing. The Technion could be reactive and continue complaining about this situation. It decided, however, to take a proactive approach and during the year after the interview, the Views program was launched.
3. Risk Management
When talking about risk management with respect to STEM education, we should ask whether or not the fact that Israel's STEM education is not of a high level constitutes a risk. The answer is definitely positive: A consensus exists in Israel with respect to the importance of STEM education for Israel's future technological leadership and economic strength. Since in the case of STEM education, it is difficult to predict precisely how many teachers we will need, since the future increase in the number of students in STEM subjects is unknown and depends on several factors. Nevertheless, it is evident that the number of high school students in Israel, who choose to study STEM topics on the highest level, has been decreased in the past several years; this decline is partially explained by the shortage in high school STEM teachers with the appropriate STEM background.
Thus, the Technion, by launching the Views program, made the decision to manifest a proactive approach towards this risk management by creating a pool of excelling STEM teachers to alleviate these shortages.
It is well known that diversity is a social phenomenon that promotes organizations that foster it. Diversity is reflected in Views in terms of ages, backgrounds, work experiences, the faculties they graduated from, and more. You can see in one class students who are 20 years old (a regular undergraduate students) and students who are 30 - 40 (60% of Views students), 40 - 50 (25% of Views students) and 50 + years old (15% of Views students).
Gender diversity is also expressed in the cohort of Views students: out of a total of 207 students, 109 (53%) are men and 98 (47%) are women. This data indicates that the Views program attracts populations that traditionally do not choose education as their first choice mainly due to social norms, and who at the same time are attracted by its educational vision.
So, if and when the Views graduates join the education system, this diversity in the cohort of high school STEM teachers may also change the image and quality of the profession of STEM education and benefit STEM education in Israel high schools as it benefits organizations such as Intel and Microsoft.
5. Change Management
Schools are going to undergo various changes in the near future, due to technology and other cultural factors. When schools do undergo change, Views graduates will be well equipped to lead the process, since:(a) they can introduce the schools to a different organizational culture, one they have experienced in the hi-tech industry, including that of start-ups and international markets; (b) they already have experienced coping and working in an industry that functions in a very dynamic world and is constantly changing; And (c) many of them have already managed and led change processes in their organizations and will be able to lead and implement this experience in the education system as well.
Technion graduates who participate in Views gain an additional profession - teaching - that may enhance their mobility either in the industry or in the education system.
For some of these Technion graduates, this potential mobility will be the fulfillment of a dream to contribute to the educational system that they could not have accomplished otherwise; For other Technion graduates, this mobility may include potential jobs in the industry in which they are currently working, in training and professional development departments as well as leadership positions that require teaching skills. Others may teach part-time or join informal educational programs and continue working in their various companies.
In addition, earning a degree in STEM education can solve the problem faced by many engineers either during economic crisis or when they approach the age of 40-50, when some lose their jobs and have difficulties finding new jobs.
7. All Win
Views reflects a win-win situation on many levels (in addition to the individual level):
The hi-tech and technology industry, which is the work arena of most of the Views participant, gains (at no cost) people with pedagogical knowledge which is essential in this industry. This is why these companies allow their Technion graduate employees to miss work one day a week in order to study in Views.The Technion wins since the returning graduates have very extensive and solid scientific and engineering knowledge and so, if and when they switch to education, they will be able to better educate future generations of Technion students. This, of course, is not to say that other teachers do not have strong and updated knowledge.
The high school educational system benefits from the Views program since its graduates bring into the education system not only updated content knowledge but also organizational experience, which includes new management methods and teamwork habits that they implemented previously in the high-tech industry.
The government wins, since Views may (at least partially) eliminate the need to invest special effort (and funds) in order to attract qualified people to switch to education or to encourage young people to enter into the field of education by offering them financial benefits. Thus, it will be possible to stop advocating an approach that sometimes leads to bad feelings in teacher lounges, when teachers discover that different teachers receive different pay, which is not necessarily based on their educational success and commitment to the system. Fifth and lastly, the state of Israel wins since this new pool of scientists and engineers with educational backgrounds is an investment in the state's human capital.
8. The Job Market
One quarter of students in the Views program, as well as one quarter of all students in the department undergraduate program, are enrolled in the technological tracks - electrical engineering and mechanical engineering education. In fact, these two technological education tracks have grown almost threefold from 31 students (before Views was launched) to about 100.
This distribution is important due to the increasing attention that technology education has been receiving lately in Israel, after it had almost vanished during the past twenty years, while the Israeli industry was "starving" for thousands of practical engineers with technological background (not necessarily engineers). Consequently, in the last several years, an effort has been made in Israel to revive the technological education, and the frequently asked question was: who will teach the pupils who wish to study these subjects in school?
The technological education tracks of the Department of Education in Science and Technology, which have tripled in size since the Views program was launched, may significantly contribute to the effort to revive technological education in Israel and partially answer the above question.
9. Gini Index
The Gini index measures family-income inequality within a country and gives each of the world's countries a score that ranges between zero (perfect equality) and 1 (total inequality). A correlation was found between the Gini index and the level of vocational education, which is not really surprising since vocational education is a bridge between young people's competencies and employers' needs. Providing vocational education in the framework of secondary schooling is therefore especially important.
According to the OECD's most recent report, Israel ranks among the five countries with the highest level of inequity, together with the United States, Turkey, Mexico and Chile (Israel scored 0.37 on the Gini index, while the average of the OECD countries was 0.3).
Although the technological education tracks offered by the Department of Education in Science and Technology are not identical to vocational education, there are some similarities between the two, and it is reasonable to assume that some Views graduates will end up teaching in the vocational education system (several have already joint it). So, it is proposed that due to the relatively large number of Views students who study in the technological education tracks, the Technion will also contribute to reducing the family-income inequity in Israel.
10. Connecting Academia-Education-Industry in Israel
The Technion's success is explained, among other things, by its relationships with industry (see Technion Nation). These relationships manifest also in the case of Views, where academia, the education system, and industry, all aim to improve STEM education in Israel.
First, as mentioned earlier, since the Views students gain skills that are very useful in the industry as well, the companies that employ the Technion graduates let them study at the program one day or two half days a week, without deducting from their salaries. Clearly, the fact that they gain additional skills required for the industry tighten the relation between the Technion and the industry.
Second, the flourishing of the technological education tracks will foster human resources with technological backgrounds, which are in demand by the industry.
Third, when the Views students become teachers, they will introduce innovations from the industry into the school system.
Finally, since the students in the Views program tend to be older and unlike regular students in many cases have children in the Israeli educational system, they often volunteer, either on a regular basis or on special occasions, at their children's schools. When they do so, they too enhance the connection between the industry and the schools.
The Technion's vision is that in about 5-10 years, 1000 Technion alumni will have teaching certificates to teach STEM in Israeli high schools. Since there are now in Israel about twelve thousand high school STEM teachers, this implies that about 10% of STEM teachers in Israel will be Technion graduates. Since Israel is a small country, it is believed that the Views program will significantly impact Israel's science and technology education in the very near future. It is, however, worthwhile to investigate its potential in other countries. Thus, Technion and Israel may serve as a pilot case study for countries abroad on a larger scale. Needless to say, traditional STEM teacher preparation programs should be continued as well.