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For years non-profits and business groups have operated in schools without supervision or control, but the Education Ministry is now drawing up criteria for determining which programs will be approved.

"Privatization exists in practice, since outside groups provide services for which the ministry has been responsible. The goal now is to regulate the phenomenon," says a source involved in drafting the criteria.

About a year ago the Institute for Educational Initiatives at Beit Berl Teachers Training College presented the ministry with an extensive report, which found that external programs were being used in 90 percent of elementary and junior-high schools, and that six or more programs, covering many hours, were being used in 20 percent of educational institutions.

The ministry will set up a data base on these programs.

Haaretz reported that the non-profit Zochrot (remembering) recently sent teachers a workshop program on the Nakba [the disaster that befell the Palestinians upon Israel's establishment], which the ministry did not approve. Designed for use in the Jewish educational system, it refers to the Palestinians' expulsion during the 1948 War of Independence, Palestinian testimonies and a discussion of shutting the issue out of public discourse.

The ministry estimates hundreds of external groups operate in schools.

Officially, it must approve every external program but in practice this hardly happens.

According the criteria drafted in recent weeks, which reached Haaretz, every organization seeking to operate in a school will have to obtain the ministry's approval. The proposed program will be checked and those approved will receive a permit valid for three years.

The criteria will cover the external group's outlook (whether it is compatible with the ministry's aims) so as to keep out organizations with "problematic" ideologies in terms of political leaning or others such as Scientology. The criteria include a character reference, qualification to work with children and teenagers, pedagogic experience, extensive details on "the added value to the educational institution, the teacher and the pupil" and an exact definition of aims and criteria for checking success.