Education Ministry officials announced Sunday that the upcoming school year will begin on September 1, which was the usual date prior to the current school year, which started on August 27.
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In going back to September 1, Education Minister Shay Piron accepted the recommendations of the professional committee that met on the issue. Vacations for the next school year will not include the “bridge” that has become customary in recent years between Yom Kippur and Sukkot. The Hanukkah and Passover vacations will also be shortened by two days. But the number of school days will remain the same as vacation days will be added to other holidays.
The plan to shorten the summer vacation will be put into effect for the first time, using government-subsidized summer camps, the ministry said. Starting this summer, all first- and second-graders — roughly 200,000 pupils — will be able to come to school for three more weeks on a summer schedule. Next year, the program will be available to third- and fourth-graders, and later on for pupils in the fifth and sixth grades. This is actually not a shortening of the summer vacation, but rather adding subsidized enrichment activities that pupils are not required to attend.
This coming summer, the program will include at least 30,000 pupils from the third to the fifth grades, and will concentrate mainly on English-language studies. The pupils, who come from poor backgrounds, will be chosen by Welfare Ministry committees. In any case, the program will not be run in an entire city, but rather in individual neighborhoods or schools.
Teacher’s union: ‘August 27 failed’
“The attempt to move the start of the school year to August 27 failed,” said Ran Erez, chairman of the Secondary School Teachers Association, who is also a member of the committee that recommended going back to September 1 as the starting date of the school year. “The parents got nothing since the summer vacation remained long, and the additional vacation days throughout the year were burdensome to them. It appears that the change did them no good.”
Erez explained that shortening the summer vacation caused a problem in terms of the teachers’ pensions, which are calculated according to the last vacation in their tenure. “The teachers retire on September 1, but their last salary date is August 26. Since there are five fewer working days in August,” the pension is calculated on the basis of a lower salary. This move has long-term repercussions, so the teachers agreed to turn the clock back.”
The current school year started on August 27 on the basis of the recommendations of the Education Ministry committee established in 2011 and headed by Shmuel Slavin, a former director-general of the Finance Ministry. In 2012, the decision went into effect. After the summer vacation was shortened, many parents complained to the Finance Ministry about the vacation days that had been added throughout the school year, and teachers’ unions claimed the move harmed the teachers’ pensions. In 2013, following parents’ complaints about the longer Lag Ba’omer vacation, Piron established the current committee, which is expected to present its recommendations sometime in the next few months.
Officials of the Horim Ovdim Le’shinui (Parents Working for Change) organization said they were disappointed to discover once more that “the parents’ stance was a minority position that was not taken into account, and that the education system’s position was determined without input from the parents,” said one. “We opposed going back to September 1, which lengthens the summer vacation once again for all children who are not given enrichment settings over the summer, without making any serious, new, basic change in the vacation timetable, a change that would be appropriate for families in the 21st century. This is a nationwide problem that will blow up in our faces in the next few years.
“We will continue fighting,” the activist parent said, “for a suitable match between the vacation schedules of parents and children for the sake of our children’s future.”