(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Education Minister Shai Piron announced on Tuesday a reform in schools that aims to narrow the gaps between pupils from different socioeconomic backgrounds.
“For 65 years we have been talking about gaps. Today we are starting to minimize them. We have decided that the Israeli education system will no longer lead the charts and world rankings in the depth of its gaps,” Piron said at the Sderot Conference for Society at Sapir Academic College.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Education Ministry published a reform to cut gaps and promote equality in the education system.
As part of the reform, NIS 1 billion are set to be allocated toward providing an additional 150,000 hours of learning reinforcement – 90,000 hours for elementary schools and 60,000 hours for middle schools – which will focus on basic subjects such as Language (Hebrew or Arabic), mathematics and English.
The hours are meant to provide additional assistance to students from weaker backgrounds; for every hour of additional learning time allocated for a pupil from a “strong background,” a pupil from a “weak background” will receive six hours.
The Education Ministry emphasized that the division of additional hours, which will be provided over a fiveyear period, will be based on an individual school’s socioeconomic strength and not on the municipalities’ rating.
Classrooms in “weak elementary schools” are set to receive seven additional weekly learning hours, classrooms in “medium schools” will receive three additional hours, and classrooms in “strong schools” will not receive any additional hours.
Classrooms in “weak middle schools” will receive 14 additional learning hours, classrooms in “medium schools” will receive three additional learning hours, while classrooms in “strong schools” will receive an additional hour and a half.
Israel has the biggest gaps between poor and wealthy pupils of any OECD member country, according to the most recent OECD statistics.
To date, schools in poor municipalities and schools in wealthier municipalities received the same allocation of funds toward reinforcement hours for students.
However, wealthier municipalities provided additional funds to schools for additional learning hours, while poor municipalities were unable to do so.
The new model aims to rectify this inequality, though municipalities will still be able to provide additional funds to schools.
The reform sets guidelines for base classroom hours (not counting the learning reinforcement hours) for grades one through nine.
First-graders are to study 29 base hours per week, and get an additional 10 classroom hours to compensate for overcrowding.
Second-graders are to study 29 base hours per week, and get an additional five classroom hours to compensate for overcrowding.
Third-graders and fourth-graders are set to study 31 weekly base hours, while pupils in fifth grade through ninth grade are set to study 32 weekly base hours.
“This new plan is part of our worldview, asking to fix Israeli society – to provide a chance for every child, equality for every citizen, a vision for every community, and hope to Israel,” Piron said.