Editorial |

Israel's Education Ministry Didn't Prepare for the Test of Reopening Schools

Haaretz Editorial
A teacher with a face shield in an 11th grade classroom in Givatayim, May 5, 2020.
A teacher with a face shield in an 11th grade classroom in Givatayim, May 5, 2020.Credit: Moti Milrod
Haaretz Editorial

If the aim of reopening kindergarten and the lower grades on Sunday was to allow parents to return to work, then the plan laid out by the Education Ministry is a flop.

An average Israeli family has three children. According to the plan, a typical family, with both parents working, with the oldest son in third grade, the middle daughter in kindergarten, and the youngest in day care, will have to do the following: The oldest returns to school on Sunday, studying five days a week, but for only five hours a day. Thus, he’ll have to have lunch at home, prepared for him in advance. One of his parents will need to leave work in order to pick him up.

As a result, that parent will be able to spend between three and four hours at work. But even this shortened day is not possible, since the plan calls for the middle daughter to attend kindergarten for only three days a week. On the other three days she’s at home, not “distance learning” as the plan suggests. Thus, the five days the oldest son goes to school don’t really help his parents, since one of them will have to remain home with the daughter for half the week.

These constraints are amplified by the youngest son, since according to the plan for reopening daycare centers, proposed by the Labor and Social Services Ministry, not by the Ministry of Education (Israel has a damaging and unnecessary division between institutions responsible for educating our children), he will be in daycare for the whole week. But according to coronavirus-related restrictions, only 17 children can attend each center at one time. And what about the eighteenth? If the parents are not included in the selected quota, they will not be able to work on any day of the week. Will anyone – the government, their local authority – compensate them for missed work? Maybe if we were in Denmark, where some local authorities have allowed parents to choose, compensating those who opt to stay home with their children.

The plan for returning to normal does not enable most parents to return to work. It’s also doubtful whether the plan meets the needs of hundreds of thousands of children. Instead of including experts in education and children’s mental health, academics and workers on the ground in devising this plan, yet again, only Treasury and Ministry of Health officials were involved.

Yet again it turns out that reality, including basic facts regarding class or daycare size, has caught government departments unprepared. Empty declarations and promises are no replacement for thorough and transparent staff work. True recovery from the economic crisis imposed on us by the pandemic obliges the government to allow a complete opening of daycare centers, kindergartens and schools.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.