Israel unable to educate children during COVID-19 – comptroller

The Education Ministry failed to map how much computers, laptops and Internet service packages are needed, the report warns – nor does it know when it will be able to.

Ultra-Orthodox children wearing face masks at their school in the city of Rehovot, May 24, 2020 (photo credit: YOSSI ZELIGER/FLASH90)
Ultra-Orthodox children wearing face masks at their school in the city of Rehovot, May 24, 2020
(photo credit: YOSSI ZELIGER/FLASH90)
The Education Ministry does not possess accurate information mapping out how many computers and Internet service packages the nation’s children and schools need to study remotely during the COVID-19 crisis, the State Comptroller’s Report said Monday. In addition, the ministry has not set a date by which it intends to have such a map, the report said.
The gaps in information stand out, for example, in response to the question of how many children in the country don’t have computers. The report presents different answers from different sources. The OECD says 6% lack computers.
In its answer to the High Court of Justice, the ministry gave a similar answer: 5.4% to 6.7%. The Knesset Research Center claims it is 16%, the same figure offered by the Arab Education Commission (AEC), which oversees the needs of the Arab-Israeli community. The Central Bureau of Statistics says the figure is 23.1%, based on all households in the country, regardless of whether young schoolchildren live there.
Such large gaps are the result of different bodies using different parameters. The OECD, for example, did not include students below 15 years of age in its study. How to measure the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community is difficult because the Internet is widely shunned out of concern it could cause secularization.
The ministry intended to purchase 64,000 “kosher” smartphones, blocked from noneducational usage, to allow haredi children to study from home, Ofer Rimon, the ministry’s deputy head of remote learning, told The Jerusalem Post in August. He resigned in mid-October.
Kosher phones were bought, but the existing infrastructure is unable to process so many calls, the report said.
How many Israelis don’t have Internet at home? The OECD says 4%, but the Finance Ministry chief economist says 26.8%.
How many schools have laptops that can be lent to students to study remotely? The ministry only has data for a third of its schools. In the district of Tel Aviv, 5,000 computers were loaned to students, but 5,300 computers are still needed.
Some schools are reluctant to lend laptops to children out of concern they might damage them, the report said.
In Singapore, children were limited to two daily hours of computer usage, and parents were given advice on how to divide “computer hours” and how to monitor their progress in school, the report said. Other tasks were taught using phones and printed materials.
In Israel, printed materials were distributed, but their effectiveness was not evaluated, and no guidance was given to parents. Two-thirds of Arab-Israeli households with a computer said the children competed to use it, the AEC reported.
Noting that the ministry is unable to offer the country’s children and parents the required means to carry out remote studies during the COVID-19 crisis, the report said it is “required to give answers” if the country is to fulfill its legal obligation of providing children with free public education.