Children playing at a nursery 311 .
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Most children aged three and four will be able to attend preschool for free
during the next school year, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar told the Knesset
Education Committee on Monday.
In addition, the Knesset Finance Committee
unanimously voted to authorize a NIS 1.3 billion addition to the Education
Ministry budget to implement the early childhood education plan and build
Although the cabinet decision to provide free
education to three- and four-year - olds, as well as the Trajtenberg Committee
on Socioeconomic Change’s recommendations on the matter, did not say it must be
implemented in the 2012-2013 school year, Sa’ar called it his “mission” to do so
to the extent possible. In addition, the ministry is committed to providing free
education to all three- and four-year-olds within three years.
Education Ministry has already begun implementing the plan, with an immediate
time frame,” he said. “This is a huge undertaking, a mega-project that is
important in many ways.”
One-third of three- and four-year-olds are
already in free educational frameworks, while another third are in partially
subsidized preschools, Sa’ar explained, adding that this would make it easier to
put the government plan into action by September. In addition, the ministry has
prepared a “fast track” for private preschools to receive
Education Ministry director- general Dalit Stauber said that
there will be 500 new preschool classes by next school year, and 250 more will
be opened during the year. The ministry plans to open 2,500 new preschool
classes and hire 2,900 teachers within four years.
There is an expected
shortage of 557 teachers in secular and national-religious preschools next year
and 65 in Arab preschools, but none in haredi schools, Stauber added. The
Education Ministry has several plans to fill the open slots, including hiring
third-year education students.
Sa’ar listed what he said were the many
benefits of free early childhood education. First, he explained, it would
lower the cost of living for young families by thousands of shekels per child,
each year. In addition, if more young children are in school, their mothers will
be able to take a more active role in the workforce. He also expressed hope that
classes for three- and four-year-olds will increase achievements in education,
citing studies by the OECD and Israeli researchers that attending preschool
leads to success in school later in childhood.
Union of Local Authorities
chairman Nahum Hofri said that while free early childhood education is
important, most municipalities cannot promise that there will be enough room in
preschools for all three- and four-yearolds.
Therefore, he called for
parents to apply to both public and private preschools for next
Hofri and Knesset Education Committee chairman Alex Miller (Israel
Beiteinu) disagreed on the criteria for free early childhood
According to Hofri, local authorities do not have the
resources to determine which families are more in need of free education, and
three- and four-year-olds will be accepted to preschool by date of
Miller, however, said that the purpose of the new law is to help
the needy, and that local authorities must develop an acceptance key according
to socioeconomic status.