'Early childhood education must be under authority of education ministry'

“Today daycare centers are no longer babysitters, they are educational frameworks.”

Children get close to the land on Tu Bishvat, 2005 (photo credit: JOE MALCOLM)
Children get close to the land on Tu Bishvat, 2005
(photo credit: JOE MALCOLM)
Early childhood education needs to be under the authority of the education ministry, Galia Wolloch, the president of Na’amat, a movement for working women and volunteers, told The Jerusalem Post.
Wolloch, whose organization is one of the leading women’s groups operating subsidized daycare centers in Israel, spoke to the Post on the opening of registration for the upcoming academic year.
“Historically, the government wanted to establish daycare centers in order to encourage women to join the workforce,” she explained. As such, daycare centers have been under the authority of the Economy Ministry, now the Labor and Social Services Ministry.
“Today, we have long since been integrated into the workforce and daycare centers are no longer babysitters, they are educational frameworks,” she said. “You don’t begin education at the age of three. Education begins from birth.”
According to Wolloch, research shows that for every shekel invested into early childhood education, the state saves money as the child grows with regards to education, social services and more.
“We need [the daycare system] to be a part of the education system,” she said blatantly, adding that the state needs to adapt its thinking on early childhood education and make it a national priority.
Moving under the authority of the Education Ministry, which has one of the largest ministry budgets, would potentially mean that daycare centers could also enjoy more funding and higher quality teachers.
“I see how the Education Ministry cared for a second caregiver [for children three-to-four years of age] for every preschool and we are fighting for this as well,” she said. “We have a very serious lack of manpower. It is very difficult to work with children at this age and with low pay and barely any recognition.”
The situation of the daycare system in Israel has been on the brink of collapse as the organizations have complained of a lack of funding, low salaries and a lack of qualified teachers and caregivers, threatening to shut down numerous centers as a result.
Last year, following a joint strike by Na’amat and the groups the Women’s International Zionist Organization, Emunah and Neot Margalit, the Labor Ministry allocated emergency funds to temporarily improve the situation.
To date, some 120,000 children up to the age of three, accounting for roughly a quarter of this age group, attend government supervised and subsidized daycare centers.
For the thousands of parents whose children are accepted into the highly sought- after daycare centers, the government provides yearly subsidies totaling some NIS 1 billion.
Those children who are not accepted into subsidized daycares are placed in family care or in private daycare centers, which are not subsidized and not supervised by the government.
For years, the state has been publicly promoting the building of new daycare centers that would enable more women to join the workforce.
In 2012, following recommendations by the Trajtenberg Committee to build additional daycare centers, the government approved a budget of some NIS 1.2b. toward their implementation, of which nearly half was transferred to local authorities. These recommendations were followed by a government announcement in 2014 to build 400 new daycare centers within a two-year time frame. However, despite countless reforms and announcements, only a fraction of the intended new centers have been built.
According to the Labor and Social Services Ministry, in the coming year some 100 new subsidized daycare centers are expected to open, a significant push forward, enrolling some 7,500 children up to the age of three.
“I really want the government to recognize and embrace education already from early childhood,” Wolloch said. “I hope the prime minister and the government will understand that this is something that needs to be fixed.”
Registration for the upcoming academic year will take place February 4 through February 22 at a cost of NIS 133. Parents are expected to be notified if their child was accepted as early as May.