Outsourced Away: Israel's Education System

The Education Ministry is shirking its responsibility and commitments to both students and parents – and the damage is greater than the benefits.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Shay Piron in Ministry's "situation room" on first day of school year.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Shay Piron in Ministry's "situation room" on first day of school year. Credit: GPO

The Israeli education system is parceling out its assets and its responsibilities, and the vacuum it has left behind is being filled by private organizations, some of them commercial enterprises, using the method of “putting patches on patches.” Examples can be found in the figures from 2013, when the percentage of private funding – sums paid by parents and donors – reached a record high of 29 percent of all national expenditures on education.

This process of privatization is happening without any proper master plan, and as a result it includes failures of management such as not issuing tenders, multiplicity of activities between various nonprofit organizations, and bureaucratic complexity resulting from the multiple bodies the Education Ministry is supposed to supervise.

The process is going on with an obvious lack of transparency: Not only has the Education Ministry not published at its own initiative the scope and method of its contracting with private bodies that today control parts of the educational system, but the ministry also refused to reveal the figures requested by Lior Dattel, a correspondent from TheMarker – even though it involves the transfer of public funds to private organizations estimated at some 11 billion shekels (over $3 billion) at least – a quarter of the education budget.

The privatization of the educational system could have led to better achievement, higher efficiency and budgetary savings. But the way it is being carried out today, at the same time the Education Ministry shirks its responsibility and commitments to students and parents – the damage is greater than the benefits. In general, parents pay more and in return they receive educational services on a lower level from contract worker teachers employed under disgraceful conditions.

The Education Ministry does see itself as the responsible party, and education and its quality depend on the interests of private bodies, which depend on – amongst other things – commercial sponsorships. The results of international exams show that the educational achievements of Israeli pupils are deteriorating. At the same time, the gaps between students from different groups (rich and poor, Arabs and Jews) are growing. Outsourcing did not reduce the costs of education either, and there is a suspicion that in some cases it even made them more costly. The state comptroller found that in some cases – for example in the area of student health services – the Education Ministry pays today, after privatization, more than it paid in the past. In certain cases the comptroller found that the Education Ministry is incapable of supervising the various projects, and as a result it has been dragged into making excessive payments.

The Education Ministry must act with transparency, and reconsider the privatization process, which, as it is conducted today, is incompatible with the law on national public education.

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