Israel: More Teachers Want to Use WhatsApp to Communicate with Students


wapOn the one hand, the Education Ministry does not permit teachers to be in contact with students via social media with the exception of professional matters. On the other hand, WhatsApp has become an integral vehicle in communications between teachers and students. Teachers in Yerushalayim feel they should be permitted to use the social networks for that is where the students are and limiting them is not in the interest of the student or the teacher, preventing “real dialogue between them”.

The dispute seems to surround different opinions with opponents to permitting teachers to contact students on social networking fearing the teacher will be regarded as a friend and the distance required between a student and teacher will be lost. Opponents feel that in today’s reality, the nation’s public school children will best be served via the social networking and this will permit building a real connection between a teacher and student.

One Jerusalem principal this week, coinciding with the start of the new school year, sent an inquiry to Education Minister Naftali Bennett asking if they may use WhatsApp as they see fit without violating regulations, this towards advancing a “true dialogue with students”.

A discussion on the matter was also held in Jerusalem City Hall involving experts who deal with ethics and social media as well as legal experts and other professionals. The principal who wrote to Bennett feels the time has come to reevaluate the regulations set into place by Gideon Saar, who opposed causal social media contact between students and teachers.

The bottom line is there is a list of experts for and against the request, leaving the decision in the hands of Bennett and his staff.

In response to the report the Ministry of Education states “The ministry’s regulations pertaining to the teachers and students and social media were updated in 2013, permitting use of social media in line with adherence to a number of regulations; The teacher may open a private list for learning purposes, the teacher shall ensure the rules of ethics and the dialogue remain respectful and that there is a separation between the private, public and professional lives along with other rules spelled out in the ministry circular”.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)