“I know as a Jew that we as a people are instilled with values that command us to love our neighbors as we do ourselves. So while we cannot change the starting points of these young lives, we can with love and strength and courage and compassion help to influence their present and futures.”
The Bialik-Rogozin School is a paradigm of academic excellence, humanitarianism, and co-existence for children — Jewish and Arab Israelis — as well as for students representing 48 nations, many of whom are new immigrants, children of foreign workers, and refugees traumatized by violence. The school underscores the potential of possibility, strengthened by a tenacious belief that all children deserve the basic right of education in environments in which they can learn, grow, and thrive. In becoming a national and international model for education in a global age, the Bialik-Rogozin School represents all those dedicated to children, achievement, and civil, tolerant societies.
In 2011 Tal launched Educational Insights, an organization dedicated to the strengthening and advancement of public schools in Israel, with a focus on providing school principals with support and resources to realize their educational visions and goals. Educational Insights is currently involved in 34 schools, with 15,400 students and 1,500 volunteers.
The Initiative currently operates in the social periphery in the center of Israel as well as in the northern part of the country. Government officials are studying the Initiative’s model with the intent to implement it across all of Israel. The Municipal model currently includes 2 cities with a total of 15 elementary schools and high schools and creates an opportunity for real collaboration with the city, expanding the scope of impact of education in a city-wide approach.
Karen Tal, former principal of the internationally recognized Bialik-Rogozin Campus in South Tel Aviv, is Co-Founder of Educational Insights, a non-profit entity that empowers dynamic public school principals in Israel’s social and geographic periphery to transform their schools and improve students’ prospects for success.
During six years at Bialik-Rogozin, located in one of the poorest and most challenged parts of Tel Aviv, Tal created a remarkable framework for education so that the K-12 students in her charge ─ including new immigrants struggling to gain footing in a new country, refugees traumatized by unspeakable horrors, children of foreign workers with little understanding of their place in Israel, children of underprivileged veteran Israelis, and children of Arab Israelis ─ can learn and thrive.
Tal and her team of educators created a compassionate and caring environment for children to learn, regain their self-esteem, and achieve astounding results. Her reinvention of Bialik-Rogozin into a safe refuge of learning demonstrates the power of one passionate individual, driven by Jewish values and determined to improve the world.
Educational Insights seeks to replicate Tal’s successes elsewhere, uplifting other schools with challenging student bodies, putting them on a positive trajectory, and creating national and international models for educational success. The program is currently involved in 34 schools – Arabic, secular, and religious elementary and high schools, reaching more than 15,000 students and 1,500 volunteers. The program is based on three pillars: public-private partnerships; empowerment of principals as educational entrepreneurs; and proven pedagogical, methodological, and motivational tools and approaches.
Tal arrived at the Bialik-Rogozin School in 2005 and turned a failing school threatened with the possibility of closure into a model school with graduation rates above the national average. In just six years, the percentage of students passing matriculation exams dramatically rose from 28 percent to 90 percent. The percentage of students joining the army immediately following school ─ a key indicator of successful absorption into Israeli society ─ increased as well. These successes are remarkable given the schools’ diverse and low socioeconomic makeup.
Tal created a “school as home” model for children whose parents work long hours at low-paying jobs. The educational approach values the “melting pot,” extracting an Israeli identity from its students while encouraging them to keep their individual identity and to cherish, celebrate, and be proud of their individual cultural heritage.
Tal bolstered her school by creating partnerships with public and private entities, including leading companies like Cisco and Google. The school was the subject of an HBO film, Strangers No More, which won the 2011 Academy Award for Best Short Documentary.
She holds a BA in Education and a master’s in Public Education and Educational Policy from Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is a Mandel Jerusalem Fellow of the Mandel Leadership Institute. In 2011, she received an honorary doctorate from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and an honorary associate degree from Ruppin Academic Centre which strives to cultivate a new generation of leaders who possess moral conscience and environmental awareness.
Her professional leadership became evident when she served as Director of Shevah Mofet Middle School, and later as Director of its high school ─ a period of professional leadership that lasted from 1995 to 2002. During that time she took an active part in turning the school into one of the best in Israel in science and computers. Shevah Mofet provides special tracks for new immigrants, focuses on science and the arts, and cultivates Russian culture while developing a pathway toward integration into Israeli society. During Tal’s term there, the Dolphinarium terrorist bombing took the lives of several Shevah Mofet students, a blow to the school that Tal and her team of educators handled with compassion and professionalism.
In addition to being the 2011 recipient of the Charles Bronfman Prize, Tal sits on the board of the Avney Rosha Institute, a joint initiative of the Ministry of Education and Yad Hanadiv, which recognizes and convenes outstanding school principal leaders. She founded an umbrella advocacy forum for the benefit of foreign workers and refugees to establish their legal status in Israel and organized summer seminars for Israeli youth. Tal graduated from the Maoz Fellows program which aims to enhance Israel’s civil society by encouraging its senior public leadership to cultivate the values and professional skills for tackling Israel’s most pressing internal social and economic challenges. Since 2016, she has been a board member of the International Women Forum. In 2017 Tovanot won the WeWork Regional Creater Award | Scale Category in Tel Aviv with an accompanying $180,000 for the growth of the Tovanot model both nationally and beyond.
Tal is a popular speaker on topics of education, children, human rights, and inclusiveness. She currently serves as a lecturer at the School of Education of Tel Aviv University and is a member of the Education Council established by the former Minister of Education. She lives in Kfar Haorenim, Israel.
PRIZE PRESENTATION: Karen Tal
Through a unique and powerful education model, Karen Tal, teaches us all that by embracing and nurturing those most marginalized among us, we honor human dignity, strengthen societies and enlighten the world.WATCH HERE