Israeli children participating in arts and crafts activities.
Israeli children participating in arts and crafts activities. Photo by Nir Kafri
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Most Israeli parents want public schools to expand the number of cultural and arts events their children attend through school, according to a new survey. Fully 73 percent of the parents questioned favored expanded attendance at cultural events and 52 percent favored expanded arts instruction by schools in art, music, theater, dance and film.

Among the survey sample, 16 percent claimed their children received no arts education at school, while 66 percent said they have had their children attend cultural events or arts classes outside the school's auspices. More than 30% of the parents said they had to pay for arts instruction at their child's public school.

The survey was conducted by the Shiluv Millward Brown market research group among a representative sample of the Israeli public in connection with the Tel Aviv Conference for Advanced Education, which was held on Thursday.

Other than in communities where the local authorities or the parents fund additional instruction in the arts, elementary schools in Israel offer two hours a week of arts education.

In junior highs, there is no national requirement for arts instruction and the matter is left to the discretion of the individual school principal or is offered based upon what students and parents request.

High school students only get arts-related instruction if the student chooses to study five units of an arts-related subject leading up to a matriculation exam in the subject.

A position paper issued by faculty at the Seminar Hakibbutzim Teachers' Training College in Tel Aviv, which sponsored Thursday's education conference, said arts education in the country is considered a luxury at best or as something appropriate for younger children before they tackled "serious" academic subjects.

In the worst case, according to the policy paper, schools view arts education as a waste of time. This short shrift to arts education is also perpetuated through the relatively little instruction time devoted to the subject, the document stated.

In harshly critical terms, the policy paper went on to say: "[When it comes to] a society that does not require that its education system be responsible for the ethical development of its students but instead demands that it adapt its to the requirements of the marketplace - don't be surprised that it becomes an atrophied (if not abject ) society for the standpoint of values ...."

For his part, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai took the Education Ministry to task on the subject of educational values, at Thursday's conference, saying that the maximum amount of instructional time is devoted to subjects that are measured on national and international standardized testing and considered more important. He called for a "change in perspective."

He also criticized Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, who Huldai said boasts about specific values education programming, particularly related to Jewish and Israeli heritage. "Instant programs," as Huldai called them, aimed at instilling values, do not work long-term, the mayor said.