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The director general of the Education Ministry, Shmuel Abuav, feels it is possible to reach a historic agreement with the teachers at a cost of NIS 2 billion a year. Abuav told TheMarker that he thinks the treasury's estimates of a cost of at last NIS 6 billion are wrong, since only a small number of today's teachers will agree to the proposed changes of more hours for more money.

The major change demanded by the treasury in return for increasing teachers' wages by 30 percent is adding hours to the teachers' weekly 24-25 hour schedule. The Education Ministry, on the other hand, thinks the number should only rise by one or two class hours a week, to about 26. But the teachers and the ministry also propose adding an additional 11 hours a week in school, but not in direct frontal teaching.

These hours would be used for helping pupils with difficulties in small groups, as well as other tasks such as library duty or school trips. They would also include meetings with parents and in-service training courses.

Abuav considers the teachers' proposal revolutionary. Even two extra hours a week would add 260,000 teaching hours to the educational system a week, more than the cuts in recent years. In addition, the proposal would extend the teachers' workday until 3.30 P.M., instead of 1.30 P.M. today. The additional time would allow teaching much smaller groups during part of the time, instead of the regular classes of up to 40 children.

He added that he expected that most veteran teachers - whom he calls the "generation of the wilderness" - would refuse the offer to extend their hours for more pay, and that it would mostly be young teachers who would accept the new terms. Older teachers are expected to retire in the coming years. Therefore, if only a third of teachers receive the raises, the annual cost would be only NIS 2 billion.

Other changes nearing agreement are the reduction of the number of teacher training colleges from 29 to 15 and raising the standards to enter these institutions. However, these agreements apply only to elementary school teachers. Talks with junior high and high school teachers are still stuck.