Education/Newsletter/June 2014/Israeli Ministry of Education and Wikipedia collaboration: teachers and students will be trained to write Wikipedia articles

From left to right: Itzik Edri, Chair of Wikimedia Israel Board; Michal Lester, Executive Director of Wikimedia Israel; Jan-Bart de Vreede, Chair of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees; Rabbi Shai Piron, Israel's Education Minister

By Itzik Edri (Wikimedia Israel) and Ido Ivri (National Library of Israel and Wikimedia Israel)

In Israel, an agreement was reached between the Ministry of Education, Wikimedia Israel, and the Wikimedia Foundation that will change the national educational curricula: teachers and students will learn how to contribute to new or incomplete Wikipedia articles about academic topics for which information is lacking or inadequate, including history, geography, and science.

The incorporation of reading and writing Wikipedia articles as part of Israel’s “Meaningful Learning” program (here, in Hebrew), is aimed at equipping students with knowledge and skills relevant to the 21st century.

The Education Ministry will also look at possibly including Wikipedia writing assignments for research and community service assignments. They will also explore having students who speak additional languages (mainly English and Russian) write Wikipedia articles about Israel in those languages.

Several pilot projects are already underway. Teachers are being trained in the mechanics of working on Wikipedia as well as article composition. Gifted high school students are learning Wikipedia article writing. And elementary schoolchildren are bring taught proper Wikipedia usage.

Hundreds of articles are written each year by students in courses at universities and colleges throughout Israel. Students sometimes even write Wikipedia articles instead of exams or final papers. The Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University recently conducted a special 2-credit course about Wikipedia and medicine.

Education Minister Rabbi Shai Piron said, “It is important to us that the education system in Israel leads in innovation and cooperating with Wikipedia is a wonderful opportunity to think outside the box and enable students in Israel to do things that make a difference from which others can also benefit.”

Jan-Bart de Vreede, Chair of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees said, “Israel is today among the leading countries in the integration of Wikipedia in the education system and academia. I hope our joint work model will also serve as an example to other education systems around the world.”

This resolution represents a very significant step for Wikimedia Israel. Developing a National Plan for hundreds of teachers and thousands of students is a complicated undertaking, facing issues such as scale, article quality and coordination with the community. WMIL are hopeful that the decisions will lead to a start of a large scale collaboration, but the hard work is still ahead.