Some two years ago, the Education Ministry changed the education students' internship format, requiring them to carry out an internship of at least six months during their fourth year in teaching college.

However, thousands of students are forced to find work via the foundations operating in the school system, which pay less than the ministry. In addition, these interns are paid by the hour and do not receive social benefits, as do those employed by the ministry.

"The demands from us are like from any other teacher: to come to the lesson prepared, to prepare the study program, even to be in touch with problem pupils' parents," says a teaching intern employed via a foundation.

Unlike the previous format, the internship and the grades they receive for it are prerequisites for a teacher's license.

Education Ministry figures show that only 55 percent of the interns (some 4,000) are employed by the ministry this year, and some 30 percent (about 2,100) are employed via the various foundations, like Rashi and Krav.

Pini Buchbut, head of the Charles Bronfman's CRB Foundation's pedagogical unit, says the students are paid more per hour - NIS 30 to NIS 35 - "because we take into account the fact that they're not paid for holidays."

The pension benefits begin from the second year's work, he says. "Ultimately, the differences on an annual basis are not great," he says. Other officials, however, say the difference can reach hundreds of shekels.

"We don't get a pension fund or a study fund," says Riki, who works for the CRB Foundation, "and we don't get paid vacations either. When we tried to find out why, we were told it's because we get paid more per hour."

Another student says "there are not enough work places in schools for all the students, so we have no choice but to work via the foundations. The Education Ministry isn't going to provide work for us, although it requires us to do the internship." Both the ministry and foundations stipulate that the interns must work in a regular classroom, take part in school meetings and activities and teach a full class, says Buchbut. Teaching small groups is not recognized for internship requirements.

But ministry inspectors say the supervision of the interns employed by the foundations is only partial. "We are supposed to check and approve the foundations' activity in the schools, but that hardly ever happens, especially with interns," one inspector says.

"I work with a group of up to 25 pupils," one intern says. "The foundation's entire educational philosophy is to work with small groups."

"The internship is the student's last test before receiving a teaching license and if it has nothing to do with reality then there's a problem," a senior source in a teaching college says. "This is not real life, with the challenges and problems involved in real teaching in schools."

Education Minister Yuli Tamir comments on the difference in the interns' work conditions, saying "If I had control over the number of teachers trained in the colleges, I'd also be responsible for making sure each had an internship. The difficulty in finding an internship reflects reality - the chances of finding work as a teacher are slim, there's a surplus of teachers in certain fields."