High School Teachers' Strike Could Severely Affect Upcoming Matriculation Exams

The initial joy many students felt when hearing the news of the strike in high schools was replaced with concern over how this will affect their studies, particularly among those who will take matriculation exams following the Passover holiday.

"I am supposed to be happy about the strike," said Alma Goldstein yesterday, a 10th grader at Ironi A high school in Tel Aviv, "but I will have to cover the material for the matriculation [exams] on my own, without any instruction or assistance from the teachers."

The high-school teachers' union is striking today in all schools in the Dan region, grades 7-12, after a strike was held yesterday in all high schools in the central district. In response, the Finance Ministry canceled a meeting with representatives of the teachers' unions, scheduled to take place today.

Due to the strike, the matriculation exam in spoken English, scheduled to be taken in the Dan region today, will be postponed.

Part of the reason for the teachers' strike action includes the provision that they work only during school hours - not beyond them. They are not participating in class trips, conferences or extra classes to prepare students for the matriculation exams.

At Ironi A, for example, there had been plans for a marathon study session in history and math.

"The pupils are the main losers in the strike," Goldstein said. "The education system is expecting us to succeed in the exams, but because of the strike our chances of success are undermined. Because all the pupils will have to cover the material on their own, those who suffer the most are those unable to pay for private tutors.

"Everybody likes to get days off from school, but a few moments later we realized that we will have to pay for the loss of these days of study."

According to the Ironi A principal, Ram Cohen, the way the strike is being carried out, a single day in a different area of the country, with a 24-hour warning, is taking an educational toll worse than a continuous strike.

"The pupils are beginning to tell themselves that perhaps they should not study for the exam the next day or the day after because there will be a strike. In the past months we tried to instill in the pupils the principles of order, organization and meeting time tables, in our struggle against 'skipping tests.' The last two weeks of strikes have taken us backward. Instead of following a set schedule, our lives are following wherever the teachers decide to strike next," Cohen said.

The pupils have a general understanding of the reasons for the strike, and overall they justify it.

"There is no debate that the wages of teachers need to improve in order to improve the education system," Goldstein says.

According to Cohen, this is a "just and legitimate" struggle. "Everyone says that the wages are low. The government must increase the wages of teachers once and for all. Only then will we be able to ask them for more."

High schools in the following cities and towns will be on strike today: Tel Aviv, Herzliya, Givatayim, Bnei Brak, Bat Yam, Azur, Or Yehuda, Holon, Ramat Efal, Kfar Shmaryahu, Kiryat Ono, Ramat Hasharon, Ramat Gan, Mikve Israel and Kfar Hayarok.