Parents of Elementary Students Strike Against Move to 6-day Week

Parents in the West Bank settlements of Nili and Na'ale have called a strike in their children's elementary school in protest of a government decision to operate a six-day study week in the school.

The school, located in Nili, has operated a five-day study-week since it opened some 20 years ago. A parents' committee has halted studies in the school three times since the school year started some two weeks ago. The decision to move to a six-day week was made by the Education Ministry and the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council.

Elementary school students in Nili settlement September 16, 2010

The Dovrat Committee report of 2005 recommended implementing a five-day study week, as is customary in most European states. Some 100 schools in Israel adhere to this, most of them in regional councils.

"Unlike other parents, who may welcome their children's being in school one more day, we value the extra day we can spend with our children," said Nurit Leon, of the parents' action committee.

In the previous school year the principal told the parents the school was moving to a six-day study week. The parents were asked to choose between an immediate switch or to put off the change to this school year.

The parents, most of whom objected to an immediate switch, set up a committee to work with the school on the change. But before negotiations were completed they were told it had been decided to switch to a six-day study week, the parents said.

"When we asked the regional council and Education Ministry for their reasons for the change, we received no reply," Leon said. "If a five-day study week is so bad, why has no one said anything for 20 years?"

Education Ministry and regional council officials said in the talks with the parents the switch was a function of the New Horizon reform the school had taken on.

But the parents said other schools in the area that adopted the reform were still operating a five-day study week.

The parents also said that since the reform had been introduced no study hours had been added to the syllabus.

"They slashed the regular study day and moved the hours to Friday. There's no real justification for switching to a six-day week," one of the mothers in the action committee said.

After parents stopped sending their kids for three days, the Education Ministry's Jerusalem District head Meir Shimoni met with the parents.

People who attended the meeting said he scolded the parents for "not setting boundaries and bequeathing values to the children."

"A district head who says he is the sovereign and only he will decide how things will run, without listening to the parents, is displaying a lack of basic understanding of democracy," said attorney Yair Nakar, who heads the parents' action committee.

Mateh Binyamin Regional Council head Avi Ro'eh said he proposed to the parents that they would hold a vote after the holidays to set the council's position, though he admitted, "The district head has the authority to make the decision."

The Education Ministry commented: "Following the Nili school's introduction of New Horizon this year and on the basis of the ministry's decision to operate a six-day study week in schools taking part in the reform, it was agreed in April 2010 with the school management and local authority that the school would implement six study days."