Education Ministry Denies It Considered Elimination of Junior Highs

Ran Erez says Shay Piron seriously considered keeping 7th and 8th grades in elementary school.

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Over the past two months the Education Ministry considered eliminating the country’s junior high-schools, Ran Erez, chairman of the Secondary School Teachers Association, has claimed. The plan would have reassigned the junior high-school grade levels, Grades 7 through 9, to elementary school and high school, according to Erez − but the office of Education Minister Shay Piron denies that such a plan was ever under consideration.

A public committee headed by businessman Shlomo Dovrat, and whose committee colleagues included Piron before his appointment as education minister, recommended in 2005 that junior highs be done away with, but the proposal was never implemented. In a recent letter to his membership, however, Erez insisted that Piron had informed the union of discussions over the past two months between the Education Ministry and the Finance Ministry over the prospect of transferring the country’s seventh- and eighth-grade classes to elementary schools, with the ninth grade becoming part of the high-school system.

Erez stated that the union opposed the plan, which he says has since been shelved. He said it would have particularly affected those schools in which the six grade levels from Grades 6 through 12 are combined. “It goes without saying that beyond the huge budgetary investment [involved], this would be a blow to the six-year arrangement, not to mention the transfer of thousands of teachers from the secondary school system to elementary schools,” he said.

He also said that the plan, if it actually existed, would have required the construction of large numbers of classrooms at elementary schools and high schools to accommodate the new students.

Erez told Haaretz that the elimination of junior high schools would be “a blow to the teachers’ working conditions,” adding that it would be a bad move organizationally and educationally. “I also raised the subject for discussion to show how creative the minister is,” he said sarcastically. “First he wants to eliminate matriculation exams, then vacations and this time junior high schools.”

But Erez added that he has high regard for the fact that the education minister backed down from the idea.

The Dovrat Committee recommended eliminating junior highs after concluding that the transition from one school to another can be difficult for students and impair educational continuity. The committee recommended that the transition be kept to a minimum, meaning that it should happen once, from elementary school to high school. In 2006, the Education Ministry rejected the suggestion but considered it again in 2009.

According to the Knesset’s Information and Research Center, in the course of those discussions it was acknowledged that eliminating junior high schools was broadly supported by educators abroad, but for budgetary reasons it was concluded that the move was not feasible at the time in Israel.

Piron in November 2013, before surgery. Credit: Ofer Vaknin

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