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About 7,000 teachers leave the school system permanently every year, and that number is rising.

This is the finding of a Central Bureau of Statistics survey that was submitted recently to Education Ministry officials. While in 1991, 6.9 percent of all teachers left the education system, by 2002 the percentage had climbed to 8.8 percent. The study found that in the secular state schools, attrition in the first year of teaching was between 25 percent and 30 percent.

The figures include regular retirement, early retirement, medical release and dismissals. Earlier studies estimated the annual attrition rate at about 5,000. According to Education Ministry Director General Shmuel Abuav, however, despite the increased attrition rate there is no shortage of teachers except in certain subjects such as English and the sciences.

The 7,000 teachers who leave the system annually represent about 6 percent of all teachers. The attrition rate is higher in the Jewish sector than in the Arab one, at 7 percent and 4 percent, respectively. This rate rose in both sectors between 1991 and 2002 but the increase was greater in the Arab sector. For high school teachers, the attrition rate reached 10 percent in the Jewish sector and 8.3 percent in the Arab sector.

The attrition rate for first-year teachers in state elementary schools was 25 percent, while in junior high it was 32 percent and in high schools, 28.1 percent.

The rates were similar for the state religious schools, if even higher (at 34.5 percent) for junior high. In the Arab and ultra-Orthodox sectors, on the other hand, first-year attrition rates were considerably lower.

"If we had more early-retirement provisions we would permit more teachers to leave," Abuav said. "There are 4,000 teachers who want to leave now and we cannot allow it. Two more years are needed for that," he said, adding, "One regrets the leaving of young teachers so soon after beginning to work in education. As a result, the average age of teachers is only rising."

The report also reflects the increase in teachers in Israel's growing Haredi school system. In 2005 there were 55,600 teachers in the secular state system (an increase of 26 percent over 1991).

In the same period, the number of teachers in the state religious schools rose by 38 percent, to 19,400, while in the Haredi sector the increase was 332 percent, to 14,600 teachers.