Education Ministry plan needs 7,500 teachers, ‘Corona Czar’ not consulted

To fully open the year, 50,000 additional teachers will be needed.

Back to school (illustrative) (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Back to school (illustrative)
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The government approved the Education Ministry’s NIS 4.2 billion ‘Studying Safely’ plan on Sunday, meant to ensure the school-year will start on September 1.
Designed to offer flexibility during the coronavirus pandemic, the plan requires the recruitment of some 50,000 teachers, ensuring that long-distance learning programs are available and the purchase of large amounts of disinfectant to ensure healthy conditions are kept during the school year.
Greg John, an English language and literature teacher with 15-years of experience, told The Jerusalem Post that some remote teaching tools, like Google Class, were effective, but that COVID-19 had been very disruptive for the previous school-year.
“The lack of face to face teaching was difficult,” he said, “you need to know where the kids are and how they are feeling.”
He offered the example of a teacher not being sure if a student is doing badly because perhaps his parents are out of work, or because he didn’t feel like logging on to the Zoom class.
“The students were very unhappy about the change,” he added, noting that “being able to use Instagram is not the same as being able to write well in a class or exam setting.”
During the Sunday meeting, Strategic Affairs Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen asked Finance Minister Israel Katz, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Education Minister Yoav Gallant if the man charged with leading the national struggle to curb COVID-19 – Ronni Gamzu – approved ‘Studying Safely.’
The three ministers said that the plan was created before Gamzu was appointed and that “they make decisions around here,” N12 reporter Yaron Avraham tweeted on Monday.
John told the Post that, with one month before the school year starts, “we haven’t spoken about the process [of how the year will look] yet as it’s unclear. Everything will be complicated, especially the time table.”
Under the ‘Studying Safely’ plan, fifth grade students and up will arrive at school at least twice a week and study in small groups to avoid COVID-19 infections.
The smaller groups mean more teachers are needed to handle the workload, which is why the Education Ministry is recruiting 7,500 at this point with local councils employing 7,500 new teachers. To fully open the year, 50,000 additional teachers will be needed, TheMarker reported on Sunday. Students in fourth grade or lower are meant to attend school from Sunday to Thursday.
Civic-Studies teacher Yuval Mendelson, famous for a series of musical online clips in which he sings Hebrew ballads with the slogan “if you listen to me you’ll pass your exam”, told the Post the Education Ministry is not encouraging the teachers to examine ways to improve long-distance learning and that “the usual class discussion format does not work as well in the square-shape screen format of Zoom.”
“This is a good opportunity for me to leave these old formats behind and seek new creative ways to keep my students engaged,” Mendelson said.
For John, there’s a real danger that teens who are at risk will fall through the cracks if long-distance learning will become the rigueur de jour.
“The students who need the teachers to look after them,” he said, “face the biggest risk from losing that attention.”
He added that “we were told to go easy on the students during COVID-19 in terms of their work quality or handing out grades,” claiming that doing this indefinitely will “make having high standards hard”.