Education reform - Tomer Appelbaum - 295.2011
Teachers' representative Ran Erez, Benjamin Netanyahu, Gideon Sa'ar and Yuval Steinitz, May 29, 2011. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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Government officials and teacher union representatives met Sunday to sign a deal geared at reforming Israel's secondary high-school system, following years of deliberation and standstill.

The ceremony launching the new reform initiative was attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and chairman of the Secondary School Teachers Association Ran Erez.

According to the new agreement, teachers' pay will rise by an average of 51% in exchange for raising their weekly work hours from 24 to 40, with some of the added time allotted to working with small groups of students.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Netanyahu said the agreement was "a significant landmark" and a "powerful turning point."

The reform is expected to be introduced in full in 50 high schools throughout Israel in the next school year, and in partial form in many others, with the program's full implementation to take several years.