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The forum of teacher-training colleges is attacking Education Minister Yuli Tamir for the decision to cut NIS 22 million from the colleges' budget, which has already been cut by some NIS 200 million over the last six years.

Prof. Shlomo Back, who heads the forum, said the additional cut means that "there will be no more academic colleges for education.

"Despite the many requests that have been made, the education minister has not seen fit to respond to our requests," he said. "We expected more from someone who came in with a clear agenda in the field of education."

The teacher-training colleges are preparing for protests against the budget cuts, which will include teachers and students.

Officials at teacher-training colleges said yesterday that the cuts would be felt primarily in the colleges that train teachers for the secular state education system, and less in the state-religious and ultra-Orthodox systems, which receive political support. Out of 57 teacher-training institutes, 16 are affiliated with the secular state system, 13 with the state-religious system and 28 with the ultra-Orthodox one.

Education Ministry statistics indicate that since the beginning of 2006, some 47 percent of teachers in training are being educated in frameworks affiliated with the secular state system - a far smaller percentage than that of the pupils who study in the secular education system.

"We have hit rock bottom," said Back, the president of the Kaye College of Education. "The year 2007 will be the fourth year in a row in which we are undergoing a cut, which manifests itself, among other things, in the quota of students we can accept. A system that undergoes ongoing cuts like these cannot assure academic courses at a high level. When our students go out to teach in schools, their skills will be lower because of a crumbling infrastructure, a reduction in hours of study and teaching experience, an increase in the number of students per class, and the elimination of the possibility of developing new programs."

Tamir said the Education Ministry has managed to reduce the budget cuts to only 10 percent of the original NIS 220 million cut planned by the treasury and that in contrast to previous years, there is no commitment to continue cutting funds in the coming years.

"In the present situation, the cuts should have been halted and a more stable infrastructure should have been created," she said. Tamir said she would have prevented the budget cuts if she could have, but that, "I did not have this option."

This week the Council for Higher Education approved a new operational plan for teacher training, which would require colleges and universities to get their curricula approved by a special committee that will apply uniform criteria and establish a new master's degree for teachers.