Education Ministry Calls for Lower Higher Education Tuition

Education Minister Yuli Tamir yesterday called for the implementation of the Winograd Committee's recommendations for reducing higher education tuition fees. Tamir said the changes should be made prior to negotiations on higher education reform.

Student groups have been trying to influence the committee responsible for the formulation of the proposed reforms, which will deliberate over raising tuition and converting university lecturers' pay to a differential salary, among other issues.

The education minister made the comments at a meeting of the Knesset Education Committee in response to remarks made to it by Finance Minister Abraham Hirchson.

Hirchson said reform must be carried out within the Education Ministry, and criticized Tamir for not promoting the reforms proposed by her predecessor, Limor Livnat.

"If money is allocated, it must be clear where it is going and what its purpose is. I'm not rejecting an increase to the education budget, but I have to know that every shekel produces results. I'm not willing to send money into the sea," he said.

Former finance minister Avraham Shochat heads the committee for higher education.

In recent weeks, students and lecturers held rallies against the committee and at one point stopped classes for an hour.

They said the conclusions reached by the committee - which does not include representatives of student or senior academic staff groups - were foregone, and would lead to the privatization of academia.

Hirchson said the committee was established to counter the "brain drain" from universities, and that "whoever needs to be represented" will be invited before it.

Education Committee Chairman MK Michael Melchior (Labor) said, "The fairy tale that the budget for education is sufficient doesn't match reality.

"By all measures - the number of classes, the number of children per class, teachers' salaries and training, the investment in education per student and international test results - we are deep within the Third World," he said.

The Knesset monetary committee will meet today to discuss a request from youth movements to add NIS 19 million to the Education Ministry's budget for supporting youth movements.

Naftali Deri, secretary-general of the youth movements council, said the ministry's latest estimate indicated a rise of 20 percent in youth movement membership, while funding to the movements decreased by NIS 6 million between 2005 and 2006.

"Because the needs of the youth movements have grown significantly, an additional NIS 19 million are needed," Deri said.