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A new vocational program would have high school students working one day a week in factories, in order to receive a technician's certificate.

The program is being developed by the Education Ministry and the Manufacturers Association, in order to enhance technology education in Israeli high schools.

During the pilot stage, students from Beit Shemesh's Branko Weiss High School will work at Beit Shemesh Engines.

At this point, the parties are working out the final details of the program, including insurance coverage and whether students will be paid for their work, sources said.

At the annual Manufacturers Association conference Thursday, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar said education systems in other advanced countries provide work-study alternatives. Sa'ar also said that with the extension of compulsory education to the 12th grade, this would prevent students from dropping out.

On the other hand, Yossi Dahan of the Academic Center of Law and Business in Ramat Gan called the proposed program "a return to the 1950s, when schools in development towns trained the work force at the local plant. This would mortgage the educational system to the economic [system, mortgaging] the Education Ministry to the Manufacturers Association."

He said the program would violate the principle of equal educational opportunity, by directing some students to be industrial laborers.

About 37 percent of Israeli 11th- and 12th-graders receive technology education. Existing options involve general technology studies; science and engineering; and vocational training such as nursing care or hospitality.

"To continue to develop industry, we need high-level human resources," Manufacturers Association head Shraga Brosh said over the weekend, adding, "And that doesn't mean just engineers and scientists, but also technicians."

He said students would spend four years in the program. The first two years would be more theoretical, while the last two would involve job placement. Brosh said the program would not only give the students vocational certification but would teach them values such as precision and quality emphasis.

He said the program would target strong students.

However, a source involved in developing the program said, "Not every student can earn a matriculation certificate. We have to let those who can do so complete the matriculation exams, in whole or in part, but also to give those with lower achievements a chance to learn a vocation."