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Associations, foundations and business groups are operating educational programs in approximately 90 percent of elementary and junior highs, according to a report submitted last month to the Education Ministry. The report is the first attempt to determine the scope of non-profit sector involvement in the education system.

"This is not a peripheral phenomenon, but a new situation which influences the structure of study in schools," the report said, indicating that the majority of such programs are offered without any supervision from the Education Ministry. Moreover, in the absence of an organized framework for the programs, it is particularly difficult to determine their effectiveness.

The report was submitted last month by the Institute for Educational Initiatives at Beit Berl Academic College in Kfar Saba, and surveyed 180 schools.

The document, obtained by Haaretz, shows that only 11 percent of schools responded that they have no auxiliary programs whatsoever. One-third of schools said they have between three to five such programs, 11 percent had six to seven, and nine percent had more than eight.

It is difficult to quantify auxiliary programs in terms of class hours, as some are concentrated into short periods of study while others are spread throughout the year.

Still, sources familiar with the report said that at least at some of the schools, instruction offered by non-governmental organizations covers 10 percent of the school week.

The report indicates that in the more established areas of around Tel Aviv and Haifa, the average number of external programs in each school is higher than elsewhere.

Programs offering study skills and strengthening core courses such as mathematics and languages are more common in schools serving students from lower socioeconomic levels. Schools with more resources tend to use programs promoting musical enrichment, Jewish studies, environmental studies, science, art and sports.

"The stronger population enjoys advanced facilities for music, art and environmental studies, while the weaker ones are provided only the basics of what the state was supposed to offer. This is a step toward widening gaps, not closing them," said Dr. Bat Chen Weinheber, director of the institute that released the report.

"If the weak schools base their core courses on contributors operating external programs, what are they going to do now that the flow of contributions is expected to slow down due to the economic situation?"

The true scope of non-governmental involvement in the education system is likely even greater than that presented in the report, as two of the largest foundations operating within it, the Rashi Foundation and the Jewish Agency's Keren Karev, are not listed as external bodies due to their cooperation with the Education Ministry.

The Rashi Foundation's programs reach 100,000 students, and those of Keren Karev reach 270,000. Education Ministry sources said despite their cooperation with the foundations, they are private organizations over which they have no control.

"The external programs come straight to us, the principals," said a veteran principal from the center of the country whose elementary school is located in a relatively large and affluent city. "Offers to take the kids on trips or extracurricular activities at a minimal cost are very tempting. But there is a price to that. Beyond our desire not to aid in creating a less equitable society, there is also an effect on the school itself - on its priority list and on my teachers, who get pushed aside," she said.

Another principal from a Jerusalem area school said, "We have no choice but to cooperate with auxiliary bodies. It is our only chance to add some color and enrichment to a budgeted schedule. The problem is that I hardly have control over the content. Everyone thinks he has access to the education system, and this is all done with the pretext of assisting in education."

Nissim Matalon, the director of Keren Karev, said in response to the report that the Education Ministry "is unable to fulfill its obligations and responsibilities. We work with the ministry, but regulation is indeed lacking."

The general director of the Rashi Foundation, Elie Elalouf, said, "There are organizations that intervene in core studies or those which take retirees as guides without checking their ability to work with students. But the problem lies not with them but with whoever lets them enter the schools."

Education Ministry officials said that in several weeks new criteria would be drawn up to regulate non-governmental educational programs. "Our intention is to build a regulatory apparatus for external organizations. Schools will not be allowed to bring in bodies that have not received authorization," they said.