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The Education Ministry is initiating a reform that would transfer the responsibility for budgeting teacher training colleges out of the hands of the national Council for Higher Education's (CHE) Planning and Budgeting Committee (PBC).The move is expected to lead to a considerable decrease in the number of teacher training colleges.

In the past six years, the budgets of teacher training colleges have been cut by NIS 200 million. In the past year alone an additional NIS 22 million have been cut from their budgets, and this following a prolonged struggle against greater cuts.

However, according to Education Minister Yuli Tamir, the reason for the move is pedagogical rather than financial. "If we want the teaching colleges to be institutions of quality, with a staff of academicians, and the ability to conduct research and develop new programs, they must be part of the broader academic system," she said.

Supporters of the move say that it would enable unified budgeting for all academic institutions, including universities and academic colleges, thereby enabling teacher training colleges to construct a multi-annual budget that would not be affected by the Education Ministry's annual cuts.

The implementation of the reform is expected to take three to five years. In the first stage, the responsibility for the budgeting of six or seven large and academically established colleges will be transferred to the PBC. The remaining colleges will then merge, be absorbed into universities, or close.

The reform won't affect the ultra-Orthodox teacher seminaries, which constitute half of all the institutions that train teachers and will continue to receive their budget from the Education Ministry.

Last week, Tamir met with the chairs of the teaching training colleges to announce the planned reform. "We tried to ensure that there would be no further budget cuts in 2008, but the education minister's answer was that in order to deal with the situation she must submit a plan for reducing the number of colleges to the Finance Ministry," said Prof. Shlomo Beck, President of Kaye Collage for Education.