Israeli CEO speaks at Kent State

Keri Richmond

Alon Futterman, CEO and former senior adviser to the Minister of Education in Israel, spoke Tuesday evening at Kent State about the Israeli education system. The event was co-hosted by Hillel and the Center for International and Intercultural Education.

Futterman came to Kent State from Israel to kick off his short speaking tour in the U.S. His mission is to draw people away from what the media portrays Israel as and educate them on something the media doesn’t typically talk about: the public education system in Israel.

Violence in Israel is often a main concern when Western media outlets cover events taking place in Israel. Futterman’s goal is to open Americans’ eyes to some of the innovative education programs in Israel. The country highly values education and Futterman has served in many vital roles under Israel’s former Minister of Education.

“What I’m here to claim tonight is that every public education in the world has two jobs,” Futterman said, during his presentation. “One is to prepare the child for competing in the global market and the other is to prepare the child for life in the country they’re living in.”

Hagar Israeli, Jewish fellow at Hillel, was one of the driving forces for bringing Futterman to Kent State. Israeli said her main goal in Futterman’s visit was to show a more diverse side of Israel.

“It (was) a good start for them to learn about education in Israel, society in Israel and gain a new knowledge,” Israeli said.

Futterman currently serves as the CEO and director of a new Israeli government initiative, TALMA. The program is expanding education into July to teach English to children from underprivileged backgrounds.

“What does a public education system look like when they’re only goal is to be ranked number one? What happens to kids who are coming from underprivileged backgrounds?” Futterman asked the audience.

TALMA’s mission is not only to teach underprivileged children English, but also to bring Americans to Israel as fellows to teach English during the 11 month of public education.

The hope is that TALMA will help students from low income families excel.

Due to Kent State’s large education program, Israeli said she believed Futterman was the perfect speaker to present to students other aspects of Israel, especially their public education system.

Regardless of one’s opinion on Israel, Linda Robertson, outreach program director of the Center for International and Intercultural Education on campus, hopes students in the audience realized “the stereotypes and what you hear in the news, it’s actually a lot more complex society that might help them examine their own society.”

“For some of you,” Futterman said at the end of his discussion. “This is the first time you’re hearing something about Israel not related to defense.”.

Futterman will continue to speak at several universities in Ohio and New York before returning to Israel.

Keri Richmond is an activities reporter. Contact her at [email protected]