The new school year is not getting off on the right foot, partially because
Israel’s two teachers organizations are at loggerheads.
School Teachers Association (SSTA) declared a labor dispute against the
Education Ministry on Sunday over what it termed “growing discrepancies” with
the Teachers Union (TU).
The declaration should not affect the official
opening of the school year today, but SSTA teachers are threatening to call a
strike in two weeks, when it just so happens school children will be on a break
anyway for the High Holy Days.
The ostensible reason for the labor
dispute is a new wage agreement signed between the Education Ministry and the
TU, extending the Ofek Hadash (New Horizon) school reform program by two years
and improving conditions for teachers in that union, while leaving those of
their colleagues in the SSTA unchanged.
Implementation of the agreement
this year will cost an estimated NIS 250 million. The TU had been threatening to
declare a labor dispute as well because the previous wage agreement had
Under the new agreement, junior high and kindergarten teachers
who assume extra responsibilities will receive a pay increase in the form of 36
overtime hours worth 25 percent more than regular teaching hours.
represents teachers from kindergartens, primary schools and many junior high
schools. The SSTA, which represents most high school and some junior high
teachers, is implementing another reform program, called Oz Letmura (Courage to
“Many teachers are angry over the underhanded attempt by the
Teachers Union and the state to introduce improvements to the Ofek Hadash reform
at our expense,” declared SSTA chairman Ran Erez, saying it was “sad” that the
new education minister, Shai Piron (Yesh Atid), was “abandoning” secondary
“We have been fighting for several months to improve the
employment terms of the teaching staff, and in recent weeks we’ve spent days and
nights with the Treasury and the Education Ministry to reach this important
breakthrough,” retorted TU secretary-general Yossi Wasserman.
part, Piron announced at Sunday’s cabinet meeting that the new school year would
open on schedule, focusing on what he called the “goals of learning.”
will bring the educational system into the 21st century by broadening learning
objectives, expanding knowledge and providing tools for critical and creative
thinking,” Piron said.
Piron has already stirred controversy by
announcing the suspension of the Meitzav standardized achievement exams, which
have been used in the past to evaluate schools around the country by
administering language, math and science tests to fifth and eighth
According to Piron, children should be studying for the sake of
learning rather than mere memorizing to pass a test. But his predecessor, Gideon
Sa’ar (Likud), who is now interior minister, disagrees, calling Piron’s decision
a dangerous one that will lead to worsening academic grades.
do we believe – Piron or Sa’ar? And which union is right – the SSTA or TU? As
usual, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Perhaps Piron is correct in
playing down test scores at the expense of a genuine education.
students still need to learn the art of test-taking, which they will need to
progress through the educational system.
Regarding the two reform
programs, the Education Ministry should be working with both teachers
organizations to enforce uniform changes while adapting to modern
At the Holon Conference on Education last week, President Shimon
Peres rightly called on the government to increase funding for
“If Israel does not invest in education today, it will not be
able to compete on a global scale tomorrow,” he warned. “If we do not sow today,
we will not be able to reap tomorrow.”
Among other things, Peres stressed
the need to begin teaching children English as early as kindergarten, because it
has become the global lingua franca and the language most widely used in the
Heeding the president’s wise words, we urge both teachers
and children to sharpen their English skills. This is something that will stand
them in good stead for the rest of their lives, providing an invaluable tool for
getting ahead in today’s world.