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The Education Ministry has cut the education budget for technology in the last four years by a third, despite a growing shortage of both civilian and military engineers and technicians, which is detailed in a report to be presented to the Knesset's Education Committee today.

"Slashing vocational education without providing a plan to develop the students' education in addition to vocational skills could damage Israel's technological and industrial development and cause a widening gap in society," the committee's chairman, Michael Melchior, said yesterday.

The report, prepared by the Knesset's Research and Information Center, says that 37 percent of students in 10th to 12th grade study technology in Israel, compared with 46 percent in OECD states and 65 percent in the European Union.

According to the Education Ministry, 108,000 students in the higher grades are studying three main programs - sciences and engineering, technology and vocations such as nursing, child care and hotel management.

Only about a third of the students who graduate from the mechanics, management and tourism programs pass their matriculation exams, compared with 80 percent of science and technology graduates.

The report says that vocational-technological programs today are not only geared for students who are unsuited to theoretical studies. "In developed countries vocational education is seen as a central, legitimate education program intended to provide students who are suitable for it or interested in it with vocational training," the report says.