For one Tel Aviv mother, seeing off her six-year-old for the first day of first
grade on Tuesday will come with feelings of ambivalence.
excited. Last night I sat down to wrap the books and I started to cry. It’s very
exciting to send the first boy to the first grade,” the mother, who preferred to
remain anonymous due to her involvement in a parental dispute against the
school, told The Jerusalem Post Monday evening.
“But on the other hand
I’m very scared,” she continued, alluding to the dispute.
kids in one small classroom is not exactly what you want for your kids – a class
with 38 other kids.”
The mother is sending her child to the Bavli
Yerushalmi public school in northern Tel Aviv. While the school’s own classes
are large, the building is hosting students from another school that is
undergoing renovations. The size of that school’s classes, she said, remained
Despite encountering what she describes as “a very problematic
situation,” the mother said she nonetheless would be excited to see her eldest
child off to school on Tuesday. Her son will be joining about 150,000 other
first-graders and 2.13 million students in total as they walk through school
doors for the first day of the academic year.
“Over two million pupils
will march into kindergartens and schools this week,” said Education Minister
Shai Piron at Sunday’s cabinet meeting. “In the coming school year we will be
faced with many challenges, which are another stage and another layer in the
constant improvement of the Israeli educational system.”
Among the goals
Piron cited for the new school year were strengthening public education,
advancing organizational goals, promoting special education and easing the
burden of payments for parents.
With regard to strengthening public
education, the minister stressed the importance of opening ultra-Orthodox public
schools, a process that is ongoing and will increase.
proper payment collection among parents as well as providing aid scholarships
would be particularly important at religious schools, he added.
of advancing organizational goals, Piron said this year was the first the
ministry would take responsibility for children not only during the school year,
but also during summer vacation, initiating activities like adult-escorted buses
to Eilat and providing tent complexes for at-risk youth.
As far as
special education goes, children coming under this category will be receiving an
extra five hours per week of school time, the minister said. He added that this
would be the first year that special ed students participate in the annual high
school trips to Poland.
Easing the burden of education-related payments
for parents will mean increased use of digital books, as well as a continued
expansion of the textbook-lending program from 500 schools to 1,800 schools, he
stated, adding that doubling the scholarship fund for students in need to NIS
100 million would be critical.
An increase in free schooling for three-
and four-year-olds will also take place, and more National Service volunteers
will work at these preschools, he said, Other objectives over the course of the
coming school year include an assessment of adult education as well as increased
opportunities in vocational-technological education and the expansion of
educational activities for peripheral youth, Piron said. Only about 13,500
students – about 4 percent of the student population (compared to 60% in
Germany) – attend approximately 70 vocational schools in Israel, according to
the Economy and Trade Ministry.
Although 96% of Israeli students fall
under the responsibility of the Education Ministry, only about half end up
qualifying for matriculation certificates at the end of their studies, the
“We must increase the number of students and enable free
choice for talented students to be integrated into professional education,”
Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett said Monday.
potentially problematic issue is that most parents do not see their children’s
teacher as a role model. A survey conducted for the Gordon College of Education
in Haifa indicated that 66% of parents do not feel their child’s teacher is “an
impressive education figure worthy of emulation,” while 46% feel that teacher
quality is lower than what they themselves experienced in school.
survey, conducted by Maagar Mochot, drew answers from 491 random telephone
respondents within a representative sample of parents of children in the school
on something of a more optimistic note, 52% of the parents said
they would rate their children’s teachers as “good or very good,” while only 13%
said “bad or very bad,” the survey found.
Nevertheless, Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu stressed at Sunday’s cabinet meeting that “a very serious
change” for the better had taken place in the country’s educational
“We are trying to instill in our children two things – values
and excellence,” Netanyahu said. “One must go to these new classrooms, and I
intend to do so on Tuesday, to see the joy, first of all of the parents, the
children and the teachers.”
The prime minister praised members of the
previous government for overseeing better results in international exams,
stressing that “we are a people of achievements” and that “the combination of
values and achievements” is what Israel’s children need to “ensure our
Echoing these sentiments, Piron stressed how Israel had
consistently brought the world a high proportion of Nobel laureates, writers,
entrepreneurs and inventors – all stemming from the country’s education
“We will excel and believe in the core values of Israeli society
because we are here to build an exemplary society that has a place for all of
its pupils, a society that motivates its youth to discover solidarity with the
whole,” Piron said.
As the summer break wound down and children prepared
to go back to school on Tuesday, Piron wrote a special message to all
first-graders, wishing them success in learning, in making friends and in their
“Tomorrow morning you will walk to elementary school for
the first time. It is a day of celebration. You may have trouble falling asleep
tonight,” Piron wrote.
“But, beloved children,” he continued, “it is
important to me that you know that we, too, won’t fall asleep – we, too, are
excited. We know what a big treasure we are about to receive under our
responsibility, and we will do everything, absolutely everything, so that the
coming years will go smoothly for you.”