Hundreds of school principals, teachers and parents across the country have signed a letter calling on the Education Ministry to change its policy and reduce the size of school groups that take educational trips to Poland.
"If the Education Ministry wants each student to gain the most out of this important trip, it cannot continue conducting it with one guide trying to maintain control over 40 children," said one of the letter's 350 signatories, Dafna Haran, of the Leo Baeck School in Haifa.
The ministry decided some years ago that each busload of students would be staffed by one guide, two teachers and one security guard.
In recent years, more than 25,000 students have traveled to Poland, mostly from the 11th grade. The trip is between six and eight days long and costs an average of about NIS 5,000 per student.
With only one tour guide for every 40 students, Haran says, meaningful dialogue cannot take place with each and every participant.
"Because the project is intense and difficult, if it is conducted under the wrong conditions this could be damaging," said Smadar Morag of Gvanim High School in the Menashe Regional Council.
In the letter, which was addressed to Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, the parents and educators also wrote that they have begun to see serious discipline problems on the trips.
"The ability to impose a disciplinary framework on all the children without exception is a challenge in and of itself, not to mention under the [specific] conditions of the Poland trip," they wrote.
Among the problems they encountered, teachers noted students getting drunk and breaching security rules.
The educators proposed to Sa'ar that students be guided in groups of 20. They contend that while this model has been attempted successfully, it has been prohibited in recent years. In their estimation, halving the group size would raise the cost of the trip by just five percent, a cost "which could be covered by forfeiting certain tourist sites and level of service."
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