Study: Free public preschool regulation problematic
Taub Center for Social Policy Studies finds more teachers, kindergartens needed to implement free early education law.
Netanyahu visits Henrietta Szold Elementary School Photo: Moshe Milner/GPO
The implementation of the legislation making public education free for children
aged three and four will require additional teachers and the establishment of
hundreds of new kindergartens, according to a study conducted by the Taub Center
for Social Policy Studies in Israel.
About 50,000 children are expected
to be added to the education system next year.
The free preschool
regulation was decided upon in January and was put into effect on August 27, as
the new school year began.
According to the Education Ministry, out of
the 317,000 children in the relevant age group, 269,000 have already made use of
the new law and are attending kindergartens for free.
“We thought the
process would take three years to complete but at the rate it’s going, all of
the kids will be joining public preschools much sooner,” a spokeswoman for the
Education Ministry said.
The findings, based on a study by Taub Center
researchers Nachum Blass and Haim Bleikh, were presented at a conference in
Jerusalem on Wednesday and specifically showed that with the implementation of
the law, 2,000 preschools will need to be built, even if the government
increases the average number of children per classroom, which is currently set
Half of the new preschools established will have to be in Tel Aviv
or Jerusalem, where the number of children expected to join the public system
next year is estimated to be half of the overall 50,000 in Israel.
Jerusalem, the main groups are children from East Jerusalem and haredi
children,” Blass explained, adding that he found a large gap between how many
children live in the capital and how many of them attend preschools, which is
due to the fact that Israeli-Arab children largely don’t attend institutions
controlled by the Education Ministry.
In addition, he said that most
haredi children in Jerusalem attend preschools that are not supervised by the
The study also detailed that in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem,
the main obstacle for building new education facilities is the lack of space to
do so, a problem Blass suggested could be solved by turning existing facilities
such as community centers or sports centers into schools.
need to build new facilities and so far, local governments have been using
temporary buildings while they build new kindergartens.
It’s a process,”
said the Education Ministry spokeswoman, “but the difference now is that
previously, local governments used to deal with making these decisions and
funding them on their own, here, the government subsidizes the
Sharon Luzon, a member of the Tel Aviv City Council,
explained that the city owns a number of fields and abandoned buildings that are
suitable to use for kindergartens, after refurbishing and adaptation but “the
problem is that the municipality ‘saves’ these assets in order to adventure in
real estate and other such things.” Luzon mentioned several examples of
abandoned schools and community clubs for the elderly that could be taken
advantage of for educational purposes, according to him.
Huldai only needs to want to make a decision and get the process of building the
necessary additional preschools without delay,” he told The Jerusalem
In addition, the data in the Taub Center study revealed a serious
need for skilled preschool teachers and staff, an issue that has already
surfaced with this year’s implementation of the legislation.
Teachers Union had indeed complained back in September that some of the new
children in the younger age bracket are not potty-trained, which puts additional
strain on the teachers and increases the need for extra classroom assistants.