Longer Year and Shorter Spring Break to Offset Strike Time

The secondary school year will be extended by 10 days, school days will be added during the Passover vacation and matriculation exams in English and math will apparently be moved to the end of the summer exam session to allow students more preparation time. These are the main elements of the Education Ministry's plan to deal with the loss of school days to the teachers strike.

The ministry is waiting for the latest developments in the negotiations with the Secondary School Teachers Association and input from the Finance Ministry to formulate the final details of the plan.

Seventh to 12th-graders would normally end the scholastic year on June 20, but, according to Education Ministry Director General Shlomit Amichai, they will continue with classes until June 30, when the elementary-school children end their year, and will study during part of the spring break. The plan calls for classes on Friday in schools that study five days a week, and "study marathons" in the afternoon in schools that have a six-day week. Every principal will decide for his or her school what suits its student body best to restore classroom hours lost to the strike, selecting from a number of options the Education Ministry will present.

If the officials in the ministry's exam department decide to postpone math and English matriculation exams to the end of the summer exam period to allow students more time to prepare, the tests will be held at the end of July. However, this apparently will mean they will have to move ahead the "second sitting" of the summer exam session. The final decision is to be made in the next few days.

Amichai also pledged to release on January 15 details of the test material students will be tested on, instead of the beginning of March as usual.

Although the ministry wants to assist students in grades 10-12 who are sitting for their matriculation exams, Amichai said "the level of the exams themselves will not change."

Officials are also considering giving greater weight to the students' end-of-the-year classroom grade from last year, since the students have, so far, studied only three weeks this year.

The plan also involves making sure all students return to school. Education Minister Yuli Tamir said last week that the ministry had received various reports that students in the upper grades, especially from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, had taken jobs in recent weeks and did not intend to go back to school. Principals are also being asked to check and report on teachers who do not come back to work, and whether their absence was in order to contravene the back-to-work order or for some other reason.