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Partners For Change: Children, Families And Education

Children are America's future. As parents, we have long fought to make that future bright--for better education, improved child health care, and real drug prevention. With renewed vigor, we will carry that fight into the future.

Children are Israel's future as well, and Israeli parents are equally committed to making their lives better. Just one indication of the results of this concern is the number of children who pursue higher education after completing their compulsory military service. According to a 1991 UNESCO survey of 174 countries, Israel ranked fourth in the world in the percentage of high school graduates who go on to pursue higher education. Only the United States (60 percent), Canada (58 percent) and New Zealand (36 percent) exceeded the 34 percent of Israelis who attend either university or other diploma programs.

Cooperative Research and Programming

In 1984, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Israeli Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MLSA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to work together to improve the delivery of social services in both countries through the exchange of experience and joint research. Priorities under the MOU include: strengthening the family; children and youth at risk; foster care and adoption, including child abuse and the effects of substance abuse on children; early childhood development (including day care) and developmental disabilities. Many projects have been undertaken, including:

  • Atlanta's Shepherd Spinal Center and Jerusalem's Alyn Children's Hospital cooperated on a program for children with Spina Bifida.
  • The University of Kansas and University of Haifa developed an "active learning" program through peer tutoring that decreases behavioral problems and improves academic performance.
  • The University of Michigan and the Israel Child Abuse Association developed and tested a crisis intervention model for abused children.
  • The Hubert H. Humphrey Institute for Social Ecology and the University of Arizona American Indian Graduate Center are working with the Bedouin community of Rahat in the Negev and the Pascua Yaquis, a Native American tribe in Arizona, on the problem of high school dropouts.
  • The Association for the Advancement of the Ethiopian Family and Child in Israel, which trains Ethiopian mothers from rural areas to become day care workers, has been matched with the Child Care Connection of Broward County, Florida, which trains refugees (mostly Haitian and Latino) to be day care providers.

Revolutionize Lifetime Learning

In their book, Clinton and Gore specifically single out the Home Instruction Program for Pre-school Youngsters (HIPPY) as an example of an innovative parenting program. It was developed at the National Council of Jewish Women-sponsored Research Institute for Innovation in Education at Hebrew University.

HIPPY was established in Israel to prepare children of poor immigrants from Africa and Asia for the rigors of Israeli schools. HIPPY materials are designed to provide parents who have had little formal schooling with the necessary structure to implement a school-readiness, home instruction program. Clinton and Gore said HIPPY can "help disadvantaged parents work with their children to build an ethic of learning at home that benefits both parent and child."

HIPPY USA was established in 1984 by the National Council of Jewish Women. When Governor Clinton learned about the program, he instituted it in Arkansas and Hillary was a founding member of the Board of Trustees of HIPPY USA. "This program, in my judgment," the Governor said, "is the best pre-school program on earth, because it gives parents the chance to be their children's first teachers, no matter how meager the education of the parent" (Forward, Oct. 9, 1992).

Today, HIPPY is being used in more than 60 communities in 17 states, serving four and five-year-olds in approximately 9,000 families. With additional support from the Department of Education, this proven program could be set up in communities in every state.

Several other innovative education programs have been developed at Hebrew University that might also be imported to help American youth, including:

  • HATAF -- The Home Activities For Toddlers and Their Families is a two-year program modeled on HIPPY, which trains mothers to develop the intellectual abilities of their firstborn 1-3 year-olds.
  • MANOF -- A residential education program for adolescent boys and girls, mostly school dropouts in trouble with the law, which provides individualized academic and vocational courses, work experience and round-the-clock supportive guidance services.
  • YACHAD -- The Children Tutoring Children project seeks to improve the performance of slow readers in the second grade with the help of tutors from grades 5-7. Approximately 8,000 students in more than 300 schools in Israel participate. One variant of this program involves sixth graders tutoring third graders in science to improve the scientific understanding and appreciation of the tutors and increase the scientific curiosity of the tutees. Another program pairs older students with young immigrants to advance the social integration of newcomers and raise their level of academic performance.
  • THE RULES OF THE GAME -- Israel is a very young democracy, which survives under complex demographic and political constraints. This delicate situation creates an immediate need for special emphasis on democratic principles in the Israeli school system. The Rules of the Game stresses the themes of democracy, human rights and coexistence that might be adapted for use in communities with large immigrant populations.
  • APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAM -- This project provides educational enrichment and vocational training for apprentices employed by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Other institutions have also developed innovative programs. For example:

  • Tel Aviv University has devised a computer-supported program to help disabled children learn social skills by practicing how to cope with a variety of social situations. The program has been introduced to approximately 650 fourth through twelfth-grade students with learning disabilities, mental retardations, or emotional or behavioral disorders. Research has shown that the program improves social skills and peer acceptance and decreases disruptive behavior.
  • The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee has developed an intensive one-year computer-based program designed to assist school dropouts who are seeking to get back into the system. This Mifneh program has been translated into English and is being tested in an African-American youth center in Westbury, Long Island.

Existing collaborative education projects can also be expanded. One such project involves joint scientific studies conducted by teens in Israel and the United States through teleconferencing. Students at the ORT-Eilat school studied the effect of the desert on its residents with students in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and ORT-Ma'alot students engaged in a genetics study with counterparts in Minnesota.

Residential Education

One of the most innovative and important education programs in Israel is Youth Aliya. It was started in 1933 to rescue Jewish youth from Nazi Germany. Teenagers were brought to what was then Palestine and educated in boarding schools. Today, Youth Aliya residential educational institutions, with an enrollment of some 18,000 pupils, offer a proven method for the absorption and acculturation of immigrants and a successful program for educating disadvantaged youth.

In the United States, boarding schools have traditionally either been for the wealthy, for orphans or for troubled youth. Reports of poor conditions in many of these institutions have provoked a movement toward increased reliance on foster care. In most areas, however, foster care systems are strained beyond their capacity. In fact, the government's family preservation plan will spend more than $1 billion to keep children out of foster care. Residential programs are one possible response to this crisis, particularly those following the community and family-oriented models used in Israel.

Cross-Cultural Exchanges

One of the best ways for Americans to appreciate their own heritage is to be exposed to other cultures. Several U.S.-Israel exchange programs have promoted such cross-cultural experiences:

Since 1985, 12 Philadelphia high school juniors-six black and six Jewish-have participated in a program that exposes them to each other's culture and history. The orientation phase of "Operation Understanding" educates participants about the historical differences and relationships between the black and Jewish communities. The second phase consists of an intensive one month trip to the Republic of Senegal, the State of Israel and selected points along the historic U.S. Underground Railroad. The purpose of this travel is to promote greater understanding between the students through an in-depth look at the histories and cultures of each. The third phase of the program requires a nine-month commitment by each student to participate in a speaker's forum.

For 24 years, the Bessie F. Lawrence Summer Science Institute program has brought together an international group of talented future scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. In 1992, 19 of America's outstanding high school students participated.

Since 1985, American graduate and undergraduate journalism students and young Israeli journalists have participated in an exchange program cosponsored by New York University's Department of Journalism and the America-Israel Friendship League. This is a professional, structured program that involves field work in Israel. Participants meet, interview and have symposia with key figures in Israel's political, military, industrial and academic world.

Since 1977, 200 American and Israeli high school students have changed places, teaching and learning from each other's cultures as part of the High School Youth Ambassadors Exchange. They live in their hosts' homes, attend their schools and socialize with their friends. The program is cosponsored by the Council of the Great City Schools, the Israel Public Council for Exchange of Youth and Young Adults, the America-Israel Friendship League, the United States Information Agency and the Ford Foundation.

For 12 years, Seton Hall University has offered a study tour of Israel for divinity students and clergymen. The program is cosponsored by the America-Israel Friendship League and Hebrew University. The program provides an interdisciplinary approach, combining seminars at the Hebrew University with tours of historic sites.