Israel's New School Vacation Schedule Places Parents in Impossible Situation

One can only hope that next education minister eases situation for parents, who also increase each year their own spending on their children's 'free' public education.

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Family Summer Camp for Russian-speaking Jews.
An Israeli summer camp.Credit: Yahalom
Haaretz Editorial

The school vacation schedule recently published by the Education Ministry places Israeli parents in an impossible situation. There is a great, unreasonable gap between the number of days that the schools are closed and the number of days that parents can take off from their jobs. The incompatibility of these two worlds has recently brought the Education Ministry under fire.

Various plans proposed by the previous two education ministers, Gideon Sa’ar and Shay Piron, were implemented, frozen and then canceled. This state of affairs only increased the anger and the confusion surrounding the issue.

One can only hope that the next education minister ease the situation for parents, who in addition to having to arrange for child care on the many school vacation days must also increase each year their own spending on their children’s “free” public education.

The 2015-16 school year will be 219 days long for elementary students, compared to 223 days for the current year. Similarly, junior high students will attend school for 209 days next year, compared to 213 days this year. The change stems, among other things, from Piron’s reversal of Sa’ar’s decision to extend the summer vacation. As a result, the first day of the school year will return to its traditional September 1 date. At the time, Piron’s decision was praised by Israel’s two teachers unions as well as by the various parents’ committees.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Education at a Glance 2014, Israeli elementary and junior high students have more instruction hours a year than their peers in most other OECD member states. The Education Ministry says that there has been no change in the number of vacation days in the past three years and that the new school calendar restores the situation to what it was before the changes instituted by Sa’ar and Piron.

In fact, however, the return to the old calendar means an increase in the number of vacation days. And the claim by the Education Ministry and the teachers unions that the vacations during the school year itself cannot be shortened on account of the collective bargaining agreements that are in place is incorrect. Teachers’ vacation days are not enshrined in any collective agreement with the state.

This being the case, an agreed framework for reducing the number of vacation days must be reached. At the same time, efforts should be made to expand somewhat state-funded and -operated programs such as the day camps offered by the Education Ministry last summer. The solution must reduce as much as possible the hardship caused to parents by the long summer vacations..

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