Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should act immediately to implement the law mandating free and compulsory education from the age of 3, eight former education ministers and other public figures demanded on Saturday.
The former ministers - Aharon Yadlin, Yitzhak Navon, Shulamit Aloni, Amnon Rubenstein, Yitzhak Levy, Meir Sheetrit, Yossi Sarid and Yuli Tamir - were joined by four Israeli Nobel Prize laureates and three Israel Prize laureates in education.
The four Nobel laureates signing the letter were professors Dan Shechtman, Aaron Ciechanover, Avraham Hershko and Daniel Kahneman. Israel Prize laureates among the signatories were professors Chaim Adler, Gavriel Salomon and Rina Shapira.
The leaders of this summer's social justice protests, including Stav Shaffir, Daphni Leef and Itzik Shmuli, initiated the letter after concern that the educational recommendations of the Trajtenberg Committee on socioeconomic reforms - convened after the protests - would receive the same watered-down treatment as plans on housing, public transport and high income tax rates.
The Trajtenberg Committee took special note that the growing economic burden on the parents of small children should be dealt with immediately, referring to the implementation of free and compulsory education from age 3, as well as afternoon child-care frameworks from ages 3 to 9, reducing costs to parents and prices of text books.
"For the first time in years, the social protest put education at the top of the public agenda and opened a window to unprecedented change in the government's policy," the letter stated.
The signatories reminded Netanyahu that the Trajtenberg Committee recommended that the educational changes be implemented by this coming January. "Although the prime minister announced that he would adopt the committee's recommendations in full, the government has approved only some," and funding free and compulsory education for younger children was not among them," the letter also stated.
Former Education Minister Rabbi Yitzhak Levy said in a statement: "There is complete consensus among educational experts with regard to the damage done to children at an age so critical for their education by being cared for in private unsupervised frameworks that adhere to no reasonable standard. What is more, the cost of the day care centers is sky-high."
On Saturday, Stav Shaffir noted: "In the 27 years since the free and compulsory education law was enacted, education in Israel has grown worse, the burden of payments on parents has become heavier, and social gaps between outlying areas and the center have widened." Shaffir said the fact that parents had to pay thousands of shekels a month "immediately impairs the lifelong chances of children who do not come from homes with means."
Shaffir added that while the committee's recommendations were far from satisfactory, Netanyahu has "spent the two months since they were published mainly obviating them one by one, especially the positive ones."
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