Knesset Passes Law Raising Mandatory Education Age to 18

Coalition MKs oppose bill, fear law would drain the education budget, refrain from voting.

The Knesset plenum passed a law Tuesday requiring mandatory schooling until the age of 18, instead of the current age 16, enforcing that every child in Israel would have 12 years of schooling.

The law was approved in its second and third hearings, with only 28 MKs voting in favor, while all the rest were absent from the vote.

Education Minister Yuli Tamir opposed the law, as did the coalition, out of concern it would take away from other factors in her general budget. Therefore, it was unclear if the law would even be voted on or passed.

The new law is to take effect in the coming school year. In the following year, it will be forbidden to drop out of school until the end of the 11th grade, and in the year after the law will be applied to al 12 years.

Attempts at passing such a law have been going on for at least a decade. The main reason for the disagreement surrounding the issue stem from its high financial cost- the Education Ministry estimated to be NIS 770 million a year- while the Finance Ministry put it at half that sum.

The bill was initiated by the chairman of the Education Committee in the Knesset, MK Michael Melchior (Labor) and the former director-general of the Education Ministry, MK Ronit Tirosh (Kadima). Melchior said that the significance of the law is that the thousands of students who drop out of the education system will now remain within the system. Tirosh said that it is the first time that "Israel is taking responsibility on all of the students. Twelve years of schooling are a basic condition for obtaining a profession."

"This is a historical revolution," said Yitzhak Kadman, head of the National Council for the Child.

National Religious Party Chairman MK Zevulun Orlev said that "the law will save 40 thousand students that drop out of schools at the end of 6th grade and join a criminal sub-culture."