Education Ministry Preparing Bill to Create Registry of Teachers, Ethical Code and Court

The Education Ministry is preparing a bill that will, for the first time, set standards and regulate the professionalism of all teaching staff in Israel.

Among the ideas proposed in the bill is the establishment of a disciplinary court for all teachers, the drafting of an ethical code of conduct and the establishment of a registry of teaching staff, similar to the one that exists for other professions, in order to standardize teacher training, etc.

Several weeks ago, the Education Ministry published a preamble to the bill, an act required before the proposed legislation can officially be presented to the government. The proposal had been discussed with the two main teachers unions, who said they would oppose a number of the bill's articles.

Ministry sources said yesterday that the strike by the secondary school teachers union may delay the bill, in part because there are concerns that it could contribute to the already tense relations between the parties involved.

"All the controversial issues will be examined and will be agreed upon with the teachers," Education Minister Yuli Tamir said. "We will not put forth any bill without reaching an agreement first."

The proposal for a Teaching Staff Law was put forth for the first time during the years of operation of the Dovrat Committee on education reforms (2003-04), but there was no further progress because of the way in which the unions reacted to the committee's recommendations.

In recent months, officials at the Education Ministry decided to try again, and offered an expanded version of the proposal, all the while seeking to include representatives of the teachers unions in the process.

"This is a very important step to transforming teaching into a profession governed by clear rules," Tamir said yesterday.

According to ministry sources, the bill will bring about "a revolution in the status of teachers in Israel. For the first time there will be legislation on questions like who can teach, what are the conditions for disqualifying a teacher, how should disciplinary issues involving teaching staff be handled, etc. To date, dealing with such issues was partial."

The proposal, of which Haaretz received a copy, calls for applying the law to all teaching staff in Israel, irrespective of the employer and the school's legal status. This would be different from the existing situation, in which, for example, primary school teachers are considered civil servants while their colleagues in secondary education are normally employed by the local authorities or the various education systems.

One of the most significant articles in the bill concerns the establishment of a registry for teaching staff, which will list every person eligible to teach - either in a permanent or temporary status. Employing anyone not listed in the registry in a teaching position will be considered a violation of the law.

The registry will be administered by a person appointed by the education minister, and one of his duties will be to remove unsuitable teachers from the list on the basis of the disciplinary court's decisions.

Each teacher will have to register anew every seven years, and dismissal for pedagogical reasons will result in permanent removal from the registry - as opposed to being fired due to cuts. The proposal envisions that, "the registry will be public and accessible to the public, and will allow anyone to check whether a particular teacher is registered."

The Education Ministry is also considering requiring new teachers to take special licensing exams, which will follow a year of practical training in schools.

"If the colleges for education will come under the authority of the Council for Higher Education, then the ministry's involvement in the process of training will be drastically reduced," a source at the Education Ministry said. "Therefore, in order to ensure that the new teachers meet the ministry's requirements, there will have to be a licensing test."

One of the proposal's elements, to which the unions expressed opposition, is the establishment of "a disciplinary court for teaching staff," which will replace the body controlled by the Civil Service Commission.

"We are not sure why there is a need for a new [disciplinary court]," Ran Erez, chairman of the secondary school teachers union, said yesterday. He also said that the union will oppose the creation of a registry.

Yossi Wasserman, who heads the primary education teachers union, said the plan is to "oppose the disciplinary court" and that the union's comments on the entire proposal would be forthcoming.

"The law will require the teachers unions to ask themselves whether they represent a profession that promotes its own status, or whether they see themselves as workers, who are mostly concerned with their wage increases," a source at the Education Ministry explained.