Benny Gantz and Gideon Sa'ar.
Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz and Education minuster Gideon Sa'ar at Pisgat Ze'ev High School. Photo by Shiran Granot
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The government will spend NIS 270 million to subsidize annual field trips as from the next school year, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar said Monday.

The subsidy will be set according to the schools' social and economic situation: Wealthier schools will get 40 percent of the cost of field trips and schools in poorer areas will get up to 80 percent.

The average reduction in parents' payments per student in an elementary school in the upper decile will be NIS 81, compared to an average NIS 162 reduction per elementary school student in the lowest decile.

The reduction for a junior-high student in the upper decile will be an average NIS 155 compared to an average NIS 310 per junior-high student in the lower decile. The largest reduction will be offered to high school students - NIS 202 to upper decile students and NIS 404 to lower decile ones.

"It's important to ensure all the students' participation in field trips," Sa'ar said at the Knesset's Education Committee meeting Monday. "Field trips are an integral part of the curriculum and are important in imparting values like love of the country and nature and landscape values. It's important from all aspects. Subsidies will be according to the schools' economic situation, so they reflect social justice."

Currently schools can charge parents in first and second grades NIS 101 a day, and parents in third and fourth grades NIS 126 a day. Schools can charge parents of grades 6-9 a maximum of NIS 387 for a two-day field trip and a maximum of NIS 606 from parents of 12th-grade students going on a three-day trip.

The state comptroller's report said parents' payments constitute some 10-15 percent of the Education Ministry's school budget, reaching some NIS 2-3 billion a year. The comptroller found that in 2010 schools charged parents about a billion shekels more than the ministry permitted. The comptroller's report states that the ministry is required "to generate a fundamental change in this area."

The ministry has been granting NIS 55 million in recent years to help students from lower-income families.

Sa'ar said the price of textbooks was reduced this year by a system of lending books, and said the ministry will supervise textbook prices and upload them to the Internet.

"We're in the midst of a turning point in the education system. It's reflected in many dimensions, first of all in allocating resources to the education system after years of budgetary erosion. Education is taking a larger place in the national agenda, as demonstrated by the state budget and reforms in all age groups," he said.