Some 11 percent of kindergarteners throughout the country did not advance to the first grade at the start of the new school year, according to figures released Tuesday by the Education Ministry. The figure, which amounts to some 12,000 kindergarteners, represents a slight drop from previous years.
Holding a child back in kindergarten can occur due to health-related late development, exposure to social and family pressure such as divorce or a family tragedy, or a belated determination of a child's learning difficulties that kept educators from adequately meeting the child's needs.
"Keeping the children in kindergarten for an extra year is one of the ways with which to advance the child's development," according to Deputy Director-General of the Education Ministry's Pedagogic Authority Leah Rosenberg. "Staying in kindergarten is required primarily for children who are unprepared for the move from kindergarten to school," she explained.
The percentage of children held back is much lower in state kindergartens than in private ones, with state kindergartens holding back 9.5 percent of pupils this year, while the figure for recognized non-state kindergartens stands at some 16%.
The decision-making process for determining whether a kindergartener will be held back was established by a May 2005 memorandum from then-director-general of the ministry Ronit Tirosh, currently serving as a Kadima MK.
The parents, the kindergarten teacher and an educational psychologist must all be involved in the decision-making process, which includes such factors as the child's personality traits, the immediate family and community, the kindergarten the child is enrolled in and the school the child expects to enter.
The process's stages are determined according to periods in the school year. The kindergarten teacher begins to look for signs of emotional or educational underdevelopment at the start of the school year in September. If a child is determined to have difficulties in properly adjusting to the kindergarten setting, the educational psychologist, parents and teacher will work together to develop an educational program for the year.
By January, the psychologist and teacher can, with the parents' permission, recommend an in-depth psychological examination of the child. The decision to hold the child back for a year is made between February and May by the parents, teacher and psychologist together.
It is important to note that parents have the final say over the decision, unless the psychologist following the child's development determines that the child is in danger and that his or her welfare is compromised by the parents' decision. In such a case, the psychologist can order that the child be held back, and must report the decision to the responsible social worker.