Expanding the Circle of Excellence in Mathematics and the Sciences in Israel

About / Background

The Eddie and Jules Trump Family Foundation was created in 2011 to assist the Israeli education system expand the circle of excellence in the fields of mathematics and the sciences. The foundation invests in human capital because in the 21st century, strong abilities in mathematics and the sciences are “golden keys” that can help an individual thrive, and at the same time advance our society in promoting technological innovation, economic growth, scientific breakthroughs and the reduction of gaps.

We are profoundly driven by a desire to ensure that every child in every classroom benefits from teaching at a level of excellence. We encounter many students in Israel who are ripe for the challenge and we believe that it is their right and our obligation to help them unleash their talents. We see our mission as addressing a national call, aimed at enabling Israel to catch up to the world’s leaders in educational achievement and better position itself towards the second quarter of the 21st century.

Vision and Mission

We are convinced that excellence is a choice, a right and a way of life. We therefore aspire to enable every student in Israel who is willing and able, to learn mathematics and science at the highest level possible. We do so in order to help maximize a potential and to open the door for a better future for individuals, their families and the communities they live in, as well as for the prosperity of Israel. Human talent has always been Israel’s most valuable resource. The pioneers who made the desert bloom, followed by courageous soldiers who defended the nation, and then came ground-breaking scientists, and entrepreneurs who are creating our “start-up nation”.

As a country built upon science and technology, Israel cannot suffice with low educational achievement and a low bar of excellence in particular. In order to help Israel to be better prepared heading into the second quarter of the 21st century, our vision is to propel a national endeavor to encourage and foster excellence in the fields of mathematics and the sciences.

About the Trump Family
The Eddie and Jules Trump family has been active philanthropically in Israel for many years. The family inaugurated the Chessed and Equality Award in memory of their parents Willie and Celia Trump. The award is presented at the Knesset every other year, celebrating excellence in helping people with disabilities. Prior to establishing the Foundation, the Trump family pioneered the creation of Beit Issie Shapiro. The Trump family however is not part of the Foundation’s governance, nor its decision making processes; the Foundation’s board of directors and its management operate independently and according to the best of their professional judgment.

Our Values

Choosing excellence
Every student ready for a challenge, regardless of where they were born, deserves the opportunity to learn at the excellence level. Excellence is a choice and a path traversed everyday anew, it is a way of life. Excellence is a path of high goals, of striving for success, of effort and perseverance, of coping and achievement. Each student has his or her path to excellence and walk it with teachers who light the way, with parents who give them a shoulder to lean on, and with friends who lend a hand.

Those who are selected will persevere and succeed on the excellence path, expanding and fulfilling their inherent potential, and succeed. They will receive the “golden key” to doors that will open before them, a key that will unlock an opportunity to fulfil their dreams. In this way, they will advance their own and their family’s quality of life, will contribute and take a leading role in advancing Israel so that it will have a fairer society and a more prosperous economy.

Building the future
Excellence students are driven by a profound curiosity to understand the world and improve it. The challenges are tremendous, the difficult dilemmas and the great opportunities facing humanity in the 21st century are those that spur them to study and to expend effort. For them, learning is practical, contemporary and relevant; they are determined to build a better future and to that end, they must be able to successfully cope with complex problems in conditions of uncertainty and to find new solutions for them.

The excellence movement is an expanding and exclusive club. At its center is a group of students who study together in an excellence class and cope and find new solutions. They are enveloped in a supportive cloak woven by excellent teachers, professionals, experts and institutions that work together and in coordination, out of a sense of belonging and shared mission.

The path of excellence in Israel

In the 21st century, excellence in mathematics and the sciences is important for contending with the world’s problems – curing disease, supplying water and food, bolstering security, enabling prosperity and safeguarding quality of life. We are, therefore, working to significantly expand the ranks of excellence with anyone ready for the challenge, by creating a deeper connection between the content learned in school and the realities of life, and by raising the academic level to reach high-order thinking and application.

We have found that Israel has an informal “funnel” that promotes excellence in the fields of mathematics and science. The funnel begins when students choose to study in “classes of excellence” in middle school. Many of these graduates of these classes continue on to the highest level in mathematics (five units) in high school, and from there to the IDF’s elite technological units, to engineering departments in universities and on to careers in high-tech, science and medicine.

There are two main problems with this tunnel: first, Israel’s excellence funnel is too narrow and uniform. Only about 9% of Israel’s students participate in this flow of excellence, and most of them are male Jews from central Israel. In recent years, this path of excellence has begun to open. Following a national effort targeting students of high school age, the percentage of students taking five units in mathematics has increased to more than 15%. About half of these students are female, and many of them are from the periphery and from the Arab sector. This is a first step toward addressing the problem, and its impact is starting to be felt in both universities and middle schools.

The second problem with Israel’s excellence funnel is that at its entrance – in middle school – the level of study is not sufficient. The gaps in knowledge and skills between middle school and high school make it difficult for students who studied in excellence classes in middle school to transition to the five-unit classes in high school. This difficulty is expressed in gaps in the levels of mathematical thinking and application, and in the ability to handle complex mathematical problems.

The primary effort in middle school is however to build a solid base of knowledge and technique in mathematics, and to gain broad exposure to a range of scientific subjects. Mathematics and the sciences are studied separately; mathematics is taught with almost no authentic context and science is taught without applying advanced mathematical tools. In consequence, many students who understand the importance of these fields lose interest and have a hard time finding a challenge in them. Consequently, even students who acknowledge the importance of these fields, tend to lose interest and find little challenge in them.

The PISA research adds another dimension. The PISA research, which assesses skills that are essential in the 21st century, indicates that middle school graduates in Israel do not effectively apply their mathematical knowledge. Only 9% reach the international accepted standard of excellence. This means while the education system succeeds in teaching (via five unit classes) the abstract thinking required for university studies, it is still struggling to teach the applied skills needed for employment and adult life.