Education Ministry Seeks to Curb Unruly Behavior on Poland Trips

Every student who wants to travel must complete a study on Holocaust commemoration, submit it for assessment.

Students participating in trips to Poland will not march through the streets with flags, will be held to new conduct standards and will volunteer with Holocaust survivors upon their return, according to new guidelines issued by the Education Ministry, Haaretz has learned.

Every student who wants to travel on an official delegation to Poland must "complete an individual study on Holocaust commemoration or other issues related to the trip, and submit it for assessment prior to the trip."

The students will have to present work before and during the trip. Upon returning, students will complete community projects, preferably with poor Holocaust survivors in their area.

The Education Ministry's Poland delegation department will help find Holocaust survivors in need.

Some 25,000 Israeli high school students participate annually in school delegations to Poland, where they visit the sites of former concentration camps and Jewish ghettos.

The ministry said the new instructions were put in place to strengthen the educational aspects of the trips.

The head of the Poland delegation department, Eli Shaish, cited "a need to stress yet again how important the educational aspect is to the delegations." Unlike the last set of guidelines, issued four years ago and defined as "recommendations," the new ones are considerably more direct.

They state that teachers, parents and students must have a mutual contract defining the rules of conduct during the trip. Students will be allowed to participate only following an interview with the school counselor.

This follows several years of reports of poor student behavior, including drinking, gambling and violence.

The new instructions state: "Appropriate conduct must be maintained when visiting sites... demonstrative behavior, like marches and parades along the streets, should be avoided, like any other activity that can be seen as provocative by locals. Raising flags, singing, dancing and blocking traffic is not allowed. Wearing delegation shirts and raising flags is only allowed within the camp sites and memorials."

A teacher who had accompanied several student delegations told Haaretz: "It's often said that the main purpose of these trips is education, but it doesn't always seem like that. Many schools don't take trip preparation seriously enough, and don't follow up on the issues when the students come home. There's more emphasis on the feelings these journeys provoke and lessons from the Holocaust, than on educational aspects."

Shaish responded, "Most schools conduct good preparation programs before the trip."