Tamir presents multi-billion shekel education plan

2,000 schools to be renovated in next two years; class hours to be increased.

Education Minister Yuli Tamir on Sunday officially presented Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with her plan for the upcoming school year, with an emphasis on physical improvements to schools and more class time for the country's youngest pupils. According to Tamir's spokesperson, the prime minister emphasized the importance of working to change the school environment, adding more class hours to the school curriculum, and bolstering of the status of teachers and principals. Tamir and Olmert agreed to appoint a team that would create an operative plan by the end of July for the school system. The team will be headed by the director-general of the Prime Minister's Office and will include representatives from the Finance and Education Ministries. In contrast with the Dovrat reform initiated by former education minister Limor Livnat, Tamir's plan does not purport to be an overarching reform. The plan she presented was drawn up following meetings with teachers' unions, representatives of the Center for Local Government, education specialists and students. Since assuming her role as education minister, Tamir has emphasized that the ministry's policy would be based on collaboration with representatives from across the education system - in contrast with Livnat's reform. Tamir already presented her plan last Thursday to representatives of local government, and announced that her office would allocate NIS 140 million to the renovation of approximately 1,000 schools in preparation for the new school year which opens in September. Tamir also said the ministry planned to renovate an additional 1,000 schools in 2007. The schools slated for renovation will be chosen according to the age of the infrastructure, the number of students, and their socioeconomic background. The ministry will also allocate NIS 50 million to the implementation of a long school day in 700 additional kindergartens. So far, a long school day has already been implemented in 500 kindergartens. The following are some of the key points in Tamir's plan: • government-subsidized education beginning at the age of three, and an emphasis on education in pre-schools and kindergartens; • an emphasis on helping socially marginalized adolescents; • and an emphasis on civics studies. Tamir has also said that the implementation of programs that will address these points would be based on successful models already initiated by local municipalities. The cost of Tamir's plan is estimated at several billion shekels.