Minister of Education Limor Livnat will present the recommendations of the Dovrat Commission at the weekly cabinet meeting this Sunday. The commission painstakingly diagnosed the defects in the education system, making it clear that despite much rhetoric from the nation's leaders over the years on "the importance of education," the result has been a colossal failure.
To enhance teaching and address widening gaps in academic achievement, Shlomo Dovrat has proposed a mutlifaceted revolution that will improve the status of teachers and their profession. A teacher will be required to have a university bachelor's degree in addition to a teaching certificate. Principals will enjoy increased authority and the ability to reward better teachers while dismissing unsuitable ones. Instead of teachers working six days a week until noon, they will move to a five-day week, eight hours a day, including 23-28 hours of instruction. Some 15,000 teaching positions would be eliminated, and the wages of those remaining would rise by some 20 percent.
This is where we enter the mine field. Is it right to cancel Friday classes? Is it right to add an hour of classes every day, with its lower marginal productivity? What will the children do on Fridays? Hang around on the street, or watch more television?
The ultra-Orthodox are up in arms, and not without cause. They want to carry on with the six-day week, and now the state-religious schools want it too. This is a serious stumbling block to the reform, because the moment that only Haredi schools teach six days a week, more children will go there at the expense of the state religious schools. The secular will be strengthening the Haredi hand. Could anything be more absurd?
Furthermore, is it right to force teachers to be at school eight hours every day? This is how you destroy the profession's relative advantage. When it happens, some teachers - the good ones, in fact - who enjoy the convenient working hours, with some working at other jobs after school hours, will decide to leave the profession.
When someone chooses a career, he looks at more than just pay. He also considers convenience and flexibility. So adding 20 percent to wages will not be sufficient compensation for the eight-hour working day; they would rather work for a bank or municipality. Also, the longer day will require enormous investment in classrooms and catering services. More will be spent on walls and desks instead of improving teachers and the level of education.
Everyone agrees that the education system is frighteningly wasteful, with superfluous colleges - in the Haredi sector and the settlements - with needless regional classifications and duplication, extraneous clerks, superfluous inspectors and worn-out teachers.
The revolution in efficiency should be carried out immediately, saving NIS 1-2 billion a year, which could then be used to improve teacher pay. The revolution in management should also be implemented; transferring authority to school principals and making each school an independent entity. But all of this does not warrant moving to a five-day school week and an eight-hour teaching day. As Aesop taught, when you try grabbing too much, you can lose everything.
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