High school students across the country celebrate their final day of classes Friday, officially kicking off their summer vacation.

Some 680,000 seventh- to 12th-graders, accompanied by 71,437 of their teachers, will attend summer camps, work or simply relax until classes resume September 1.

An additional 500,000 pupils from elementary and middle schools will throw down their school bags beginning July 1.

“Summer vacation is a time for change – a time for our children to escape their everyday template and diversify and operate according to their own hearts,” Education Minister Shai Piron said on Thursday.

“Vacation is a time to rest, stop and get out of the cycle of the social-educational order of school, homework, exams and extracurricular activities,” he said.

The Education Ministry announced Thursday it would expand its Educators Around the Clock program, initiated last summer, which aims to place the responsibility of education on the community and parents as well as teachers “in the morning, afternoon, night time, during studies and during vacations.”

The program is held in cooperation with the local authorities, youth organizations, government offices, and social organizations during which time a variety of student programs and activities will be offered across all districts and all sectors. Prior to the summer vacation, preparatory classes were held in schools in which the students were exposed to an array of activities and opportunities available to them during the holiday, including digital summer camps, sporting events, volunteer opportunities and student-card benefits.

“The holiday provides an opportunity to realize all the life skills acquired in school – time management, decision-making, coping with stress, self-development and friends,” said Piron.

As the students make the most out of their summer vacations, the ministry is also planning for the year ahead. Students will return to a new reality, with a different vacation schedule, changes in matriculation exams and additional requirements for completing their high school diplomas.

Earlier this year, Piron announced a new plan, Israel Moves Up a Grade, introducing several reforms to the matriculation exams.

According to this plan, matriculation exams for students will begin in 11th grade rather than in 10th and will cover roughly 60-70 percent of the material learned, with the remaining 30% to be covered by a student research project.

English and mathematics will continue to remain individual subjects and each student is to be required to complete at least one unit of science.

In addition, in order to be eligible for a matriculation certificate, students will be required to complete three years of individual and group volunteer services in the community.

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