High-tech Professionals Retraining as English Teachers Get a Lesson on Ministry Promises

The high-tech professionals being retrained as English teachers in a high-profile Education Ministry scheme say the ministry would still not tell them where they're going to work and how much they are going to earn, Haaretz learned.

The scheme, jointly run by the ministry, the treasury and the Employment Service, is attended by some 100 students. It is meant to draw newly unemployed young professionals, mainly in high-tech, to the education system. It includes six months of studies, with the new teachers entering their first classroom as early as September, with ongoing training. Those in retraining enjoy some unprecedented privileges: They pay no tuition fees, they receive a bursary and their entry salary in schools is considered to be very high for the field, reaching as much as NIS 9,000. In exchange, the trainees commit to work in education for three years. The highly advertised program is meant to be followed by similar schemes in other fields.

In a letter to the logistics director at the Education Ministry, Zion Shabat, those in the retraining program asked to ensure that the salary they were promised will not be reduced if they will only be employed in a part-time capacity, as they have been recently informed. And they want to clarify the status of teachers placed in schools not participating in the "New Horizon" reform scheme, which defines their wages, and to confirm that their seniority from previous jobs will be maintained.

"Most of the students joined the scheme out of a sense of mission, but also because of the special employment terms. Ever since the program started, though, the Education Ministry has been avoiding giving us answers to many of our questions or was telling us to direct our questions to somewhere else. You can't treat people like that," said Haim Kelleg, who represents students on the training program at Beit Berl College. He said about half of the 35 program students there were threatening to leave if no clear answers were given.

"It's very irritating that the ministry, which benefited from all that publicity around the scheme, is now apparently unable to answer such very basic questions," said a student in the project who is studying at the Seminar Hakibbutzim Teachers College, Tel Aviv.

"I find it difficult to believe the ministry would violate a written commitment, but no one knows what's going on. We just want answers."

The Education Ministry said in a statement that "our representatives met with the students following their inquiries about their employment terms. Representatives of several departments have assured the students they'll remain in close contact and update them on any progress on the remaining issues, such as the seniority matter."