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l Education

We have just heard the good news of how we are to solve the problem of low achievement in our education system, and our fall in international leagues in math, science, comprehension and reading: Education Minister Limor Livnat's idea to move to a five-day school week. Let's remember what former prime minister Levi Eshkol said when it was suggested that we move to working five days a week: "Let's begin with working one day!" In the new academic year which is scheduled to begin next week, the new system will be tried out in selected towns and local authorities, but clearly the "experiment" will become the norm by the following year.

The whole idea was wrong from the start, done in an attempt to save costs, principally on the school bus runs. But the declared savings should be taken with a grain of salt. The teachers will obviously demand compensation, and the Education Ministry is already insisting from the local authorities that they provide alternative activities for the "spare day," keeping the "endangered" children entertained. Schools will have to offer long lunch breaks, and to set aside space where an orderly meal can be had. Expenses on teaching staff for Fridays will increase as they run the "enrichment classes." Of course one could cut out all the waste and duplication of resources and funding for institutions that pass themselves off as schools, thereby saving millions, and without affecting education levels at all. But that would be far harder from a political and managerial point.

Shortening the school week will result in lower standards of education and knowledge, attacking our single natural resource, and therefore our economic future. When they add an extra hour to the study day - in order to maintain the hours of learning each week - the marginal returns of each lesson are reduced. Every student knows that after six straight hours of learning, the seventh is a waste of time, given the tiredness of both pupils and staff.

l Fatherhood

Sagi Genger was taken on by medical device maker Lumenis in 1999 as chief financial officer at the young age of only 27. In his four years at Lumenis, he received salary, bonuses and a leaving package worth in total NIS 13 million, and he also cashed in shares in 2001 for an additional few million.

But that's not all. Genger left his job last June as the new CEO Avner Raz took over, though he was kept on as a consultant for the next two years at a fee of NIS 2.7 million for 25 hours work a month. That translates to pay of NIS 4,500 per hour. The leading creditor to the company is Bank Hapoalim which lent the firm some NIS 1 billion (!). Does the bank not care where its money goes?

Lumenis specializes in losses. It has made accumulated losses of $355 million since 1999, when the firm switched owners. And who were the new owners for these four years? None other than Sagi Genger's proud father, Arie. Oh, how my heart aches for those innocent investors of the general public.