The Education Ministry on Tuesday surprised millions of pupils and their parents by announcing that this year's summer vacation would be shortened, with school starting on August 26 instead of September 1. To make up the days, the Sukkot, Hanukkah and Passover vacations will be extended.

It would have made more sense to announce this change at the beginning of the school year than at the end of it. Many families have already made vacation plans for August, and will now have to either cancel them or pay fees to make changes. The Education Ministry acted with bureaucratic obtuseness by making such a late announcement, exhibiting a total lack of consideration for parents.

The decision was explained in a report by a tendentious committee, which recommended creating "significant continuity for studying the Tishrei holidays" in the Jewish school system. Arab pupils, meanwhile, will start school on September 1, as they always have.

Once again, it seems that Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, who is determined to strengthen "Jewish and Zionist education," is subjugating the educational system to his political goals, this time by abusing the parents.

The education system suffers from a multiyear delay in improving the teaching of basic skills like reading, writing, English and math. This neglect is obvious in Israeli pupils' poor showing on comparative international exams.

One could justify changing the vacation schedule were it aimed at strengthening the study of basic subjects. But Sa'ar seems much more concerned with the holidays, which as it is take up too much of the curriculum.

The ideology of the right, which aims to emphasize every Jewish thing and to sharpen the division between Jewish and Arab pupils, is more important to our education minister than his commitment to improving academic achievement.

The school vacation schedule is indeed worthy of periodic review, so it can be adjusted to the changing needs of teachers and parents. But it would have been better to cancel Hanukkah vacation - which is observed only by the school system and is a burden on working parents - and create an unbroken period of study between the fall holidays and Passover.

Shortening summer vacation with a last-minute announcement shows a lack of management, and will cause parents unnecessary trouble without contributing a thing to education. The National Parents Forum is correct in demanding that the decision be retracted.