Student-teachers to Beef Up School Staffing Levels in Israel, for a Pittance

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Children in a Tel Aviv kindergarten.
Children in a Tel Aviv kindergarten.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

The Education Ministry recently published a call for kindergartens, elementary and junior-high schools to participate in a pilot program in which third-year education students will work as classroom teachers for two or three days a week throughout the school year.

Academia-Classroom is a scaled-down version of a program whose outlines were drawn up under former Education Minister Shay Piron.

The initial goal was to reduce student-teacher ratios, but recently the ministry recast the program as a reform in teacher training. It said the budget for the pilot program for the 2015-16 school year will be 33.26 million shekels ($8.41 million).

Of that amount, a total of 10 million shekels will go to the 1,000 student teachers who are expected to participate. Each will receive a scholarship of 10,000 shekels for the 10-month school year, during which they are to put in between 12 and 15 hours a week at the school, the ministry said.

The remaining 23 million shekels will be spent on supervising the student teachers and on professional development and training for the supervising teachers.

“The idea that out of 33 million shekels only 10 million go to the students and over 23 million shekels are for supervision is unreasonable, in my opinion,” a senior official involved in teacher training programs told Haaretz, speaking on condition of anonymity. “The student receives 1,000 shekels a month for a half-time teaching position in practice. If the Education Ministry had said ‘I think teacher training is better in the field and I want to encourage the students,’ then why do they need to spend over twice as much on supervision? Who needs to supervise these people? After all, they are being trained in the universities and colleges,” he said.

“The students already do student teaching once a week as part of their training, and that doesn’t cost the state money. We pay a few shekels to the training teacher, not amounts like that. We also have a budget for our coordinators, but not sums of that magnitude,” he added.

The Education Ministry announcement said the scholarships will be paid during the pilot phase of the program, but not whether students will paid, or how, after that. “Scholarships will be granted only during the pilot, since after that the expanded experience will be an integral part of the training program for teaching,” the announcement said.

Breaking down the overall budget for the pilot, the ministry said that in addition to the 10 million shekels in scholarships for the student teachers, each supervising teacher will be paid for two additional hours a week, at a combined cost of about 12 million shekels. Additional payments to pedagogical coordinators in the participating teacher training colleges and the costs for professional training and development will cost 5 million shekels and 6 million shekels, respectively, for a total of around 33 million shekels.

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