The new initiative cultivates a pool of topnotch computer experts who enhance the skills of high school students, bringing them closer to the world of cyber and technology. Thus, the program enriches Israel's educational system with high-quality teachers who have extensive hands-on experience.
The program is the brainchild of Beit Berl College President Prof. Yuli Tamir, who is a former Minister of Education and also a former soldier in Unit 8200. "I am very excited to launch this unique program and bring the innovation of our Start-Up Nation to the classrooms," says Prof. Tamir. "This program has double impact: high school students will be exposed to new content from the world of technology and cyber, and the officers will have the chance to take part in training the next generation, which is very gratifying. Beit Berl College will continue to spearhead innovative education to train Israel's future generations."
The new program is a joint initiative of Beit Berl College, the IDF Intelligence Corps, the AMAL educational network and the Ministry of Education, with funding from the Israeli Lottery (Mifal HaPais). It is taught by Beit Berl pedagogic experts and lecturers, under the leadership of Dr. Tili Wagner, head of the clinical programs to train Math and Physics teachers at Beit Berl College.
Israel's Minister of Education, Dr. Yifat Shasha-Biton, lauded the program. "Teaching quality is the critical factor that will determine our educational system and society, and we are therefore working to ensure that we teach according to the highest standards, in a way that is challenging, interesting and relevant to the student's world. Collaborating with the army is an additional channel to integrate high-quality personnel with extensive knowledge in the field of technology," she said.
The program's first cohort consists of 20 officers from Unit 8200 and other top-tier technological units, all of whom already have an undergraduate degree in Computer Science. At the end of the program, they will receive a teaching certificate from the Ministry of Education and will be qualified to teach computer science and cyber technology. They will teach during their remaining years of army service, and hopefully will continue in education when they complete their service – in about 2-3 years.
"We selected the most qualified candidates for this program. All the participating officers are motivated and serious, and they are interested in exploring the field of teaching," says Dr. Wagner. The participating IDF officers must devote two days a week to the teacher training program for an entire year. One of the two days, Mondays, is donated by the army but the other, Friday, is in lieu of their usual day off – which requires a high level of commitment.
The first part of the program took place during the summer in a hybrid format: some of the meetings were held in-person on the Beit Berl campus and others were via Zoom. Throughout the upcoming school year, the soldiers will be placed in internships at four high schools, where they will guide 10th-12th grade students in cyber projects. Once a week, they will spend an entire day at the high school, assisting the school's teachers and helping improve the students' computer and technology skills.
"First and foremost, this is an initiative that contributes to the community. We greatly value the connection between the army, the education system and the community at large," adds Lieutenant Colonel L., head of the IDF Intelligence Training Division. "I would like to thank all the partners in this initiative, and especially the participating officers who are volunteering their time and energy in order to study and teach."