Education Minister Naftali Bennett with his family on the first day of school, September 1, 2015.
(photo credit: COURTESY EDUCATION MINISTRY)
After an Israel Teachers Association strike was averted on Monday night, the new school year began as scheduled on Tuesday morning, with some 2.2 million students entering classrooms.
Ending a day of back and forth talks on Monday, the association announced that evening that the strike planned among its high school teachers would not, in fact, take place on the first day of school. The decision to call off the strike, which had been planned due to critical issues involving educational materials for the year, occurred following a meeting with Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the association said.
“Naftali Bennett showed great interest in understanding the problems and the urgent need for a solution, and promised to use all of their power to find a solution within the coming days,” it added.
As a result, some 2,191,004 students began school on Tuesday, a rise from the 2,141,850 enrolled the previous year, according to Education Ministry data. Of the total, 501,065 would be attending public kindergartens, 985,109 would be in elementary school, 284,837 would be in junior high school and 419,993 would be in high school.
“We start the school year today,” Bennett said on Monday night, ahead of Tuesday’s school year opening. “A school year for the parents, a school year for the children, a school year for all the State of Israel.”
Bennett added a direct message to parents as their children head into various classrooms in kindergartens, elementary schools, junior high schools and high schools.
“I want to say today to parents who send their children to kindergarten and school: From now on your children in first grade have smaller classes, your children in kindergarten have a second assistant,” he said. “If you are a parent of special needs children – your children will have new tools to help them cope with challenges. And if you are a parent of high-school students – we increased the study of mathematics in order to give a larger set of keys to their future success. The education system is prepared in your honor – and I wish everyone a successful school year.”
At the country’s 4,805 elementary, middle and high schools, where 1,689,939 students are enrolled, 166,208 educators will be teaching in 68,271 classrooms, the Education Ministry said.
In the Jewish sector, about 721,297 students would be attending public schools, 229,415 would be attending public religious schools, 50,166 would be attending yeshivas and 257,293 would be either home-schooled or participating in other educational programs. In the non-Jewish sector, 440,596 were enrolled in school this year, the Education Ministry added.
At Monday’s cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed the importance of “education for excellence,” discussing reforms in both classroom size and additional teaching assistants in kindergartens.
“Important steps are being carried out in this area and I support the education minister,” Netanyahu said. “We have set his as a basic goal for the State of Israel. We want to continue the Start-Up Nation. The base for this is, first of all, mathematics and the sciences.”
Netanyahu also mentioned a new program launched the day before, which involves increasing the number of students able to study the highest level of mathematics in school. This step, he explained, will have “far-reaching consequences for the economy, technology and security.”
Describing mathematics as “the queen of sciences,” the prime minister emphasized how abilities in this subject “are shared among the entire population.” He also voiced his support for a specific “cyber college” program in the city of Dimona, which he said could contribute to transforming the Negev into a global cyber capital.
“I can only add that the future belongs to countries that can innovate. Innovation is built on two values: the first, of course, is excellence, and the second is domestic solidarity,” Netanyahu said. “We summarize this in two words – Zionism and excel - lence.”