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The 2009-10 school year is on track to open without hitch tomorrow, except for a few local strikes. The biggest, at least for now, is planned by parents in Petah Tikva, over the enrollment of Ethiopian students.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a cabinet discussion on the upcoming school year Sunday that school discipline must be strengthened. "The era of permissiveness is over, and we need to move to strict discipline," he said.

The prime minister said there was also a need to put more emphasis on achievement and on educating toward the values of Zionism and Jewish tradition - a statement that jibes with the program recently presented by his education minister, Gideon Sa'ar (Likud).

Sa'ar's presentation to the cabinet, which included a lengthy section on the need to improve the teaching of Bible in the schools, sparked a discussion in which several ministers, especially from Likud and Shas, emphasized the need to improve Bible studies.

Limor Livnat (Likud), the former education minister and present culture and sports minister, got into a heated argument with Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman (Labor) over private education, which in Israel is largely state funded: Livnat criticized the private schools, while Braverman came to their defense. Sa'ar told the cabinet the state should stop funding private education in order to strengthen the public system.

The Education Ministry said that 1.48 million students will be enrolled in 1st through 12th grade this year, with another 385,000 in nursery schools and kindergartens. The total number of schools is about 1,100, comprising 57,000 classes. Some 121,000 teachers staff these schools.

In the Arab sector, the number of students has grown 10 percent over the past decade, the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel reported. In ultra-Orthodox schools, enrollment has jumped 51 percent over this period, while in state religious schools, it has risen 8 percent. In contrast, state secular schools have lost 3 percent of their student bodies.