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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Speaking at the Education Ministry's Tel Aviv headquarters on Thursday, Education Minister Yuli Tamir told reporters she intends to pursue a gradual reform of the education system.
"It's a big system and it moves slowly, and my goal is to take things step by step," she said. "Over the past few years, the desire to institute wide-ranging reforms too quickly did not benefit the system. Real changes take time."
Without the proper financial means, however, any such reform would be impossible to implement, Tamir warned. Her most immediate goal, she said, was to prevent the NIS 60 million cut that would lead to the dismissal of 600 high school teachers if it is not overturned by the end of this month.
To that end, she said, her office was already engaged in talks with the Finance Ministry, and for the time being she wanted to prevent the dismissal letters for those teachers from being mailed out.
"The system is unable to take another cut," she said, adding that she hoped the issue would be resolved within a week.
Tamir said she would then turn to formulating a reform program that would be agreed upon by the ministry, the teachers' organizations and local government representatives. In this context, she said, it would be possible to reach agreements with the teachers' unions concerning those teachers interested in retirement rather than firing educators who wanted to pursue their teaching careers.
"Both the unions and the ministry are very interested in allowing people who no longer want to be part of the system to retire," she said.
"Reform has become a threatening word," Tamir added. "Let's call it an 'educational strategy.'"
Tamir said that senior officials at the ministry had begun evaluating the three major reform proposals in the ministry's possession: the Dovrat Report, which was commissioned by former education minister Limor Livnat, and two proposals by the Teachers Union and the Association of Secondary School Teachers.
The first step, she said, was to pursue their common goals. "We're ripe to go ahead because there's no need to invent anything new," she said.
She was adamant about including in any future reform a national lunch program in schools. "There is no Western country in which there is no lunch program," she said. "It's a basic obligation."
The introduction of a long school day, she said, would be impossible prior to the implementation of both a lunch program and serious changes in infrastructures.
Tamir also said that, in the long term, the role of schools would have to be redefined to cater to the future citizens of a global information society.
She also made reference to "Free to Study," the plan she drafted prior to the elections for government-subsidized student loans that students would begin repaying only when earning the equivalent of the average Israeli salary. She hoped the program would be implemented within two years.
Tamir had already received a letter Wednesday from Adi Eldar, chairman of the Center for Local Government and mayor of Karmiel, urging her to implement an education reform in agreement with the teachers. Eldar reported that the local municipalities in which a pilot of the Dovrat reform was implemented this year were very satisfied with the results. He urged Tamir to continue implementing the pilot program.
Tamir has appointed Shmuel Abuav as the Education Ministry's new director-general. Abuav, who will assume the position late next month, was until recently the director-general of the Housing Ministry, and previously the mayor of Kiryat Tivon and the education committee chair at the center for local government.
Prof. Yaakov Katz, head of the Education Ministry's Pedagogical Secretariat, has resigned from his position. He said that following Tamir's appointment, he would not be able to pursue the pedagogical policies he believed in.
Katz is being investigated due to suspicions that he transferred ministry funds to a private research institute with which he was affiliated.