Education minister seeks to shorten school vacation – report
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Education minister seeks to shorten school vacation – report

Naftali Bennett outlines plans to add seven days of study for grades 1-3 by shortening Passover and Hannukah breaks

Illustrative image of Israeli school children leaving school and celebrating the first day of summer vacation on June 30 2009. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Illustrative image of Israeli school children leaving school and celebrating the first day of summer vacation on June 30 2009. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Education Minister Naftali Bennett is reportedly planning to shorten school vacation for first- to third-graders beginning in the coming academic year.

The minister, who leads the Jewish Home party, is considering three options, each said to cost millions of shekels, the daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported Thursday.

Bennett said that he wants to make it easier for parents, many of whom struggle to find childcare options while they go to work on school vacation days.

Currently, in addition to two months of summer vacation, pupils have some 44 days off during the year, while parents have far fewer days off.

Initially the additional school days will be for pupils in grades 1 to 3, though Bennett is seeking funding to extend it to kindergarten and then to the other grades in elementary school, the report said.

Education Minister and Jewish Home party leader, Naftali Bennett, leads the faction meeting at the Knesset on July 3, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Education Minister and Jewish Home party leader, Naftali Bennett, leads the faction meeting at the Knesset on July 3, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

According to the new plan, pupils will have school on the days immediately following the three festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot, and the Passover and Hanukkah vacations, which begin several days before the festivals, will be shortened.

Reportedly, the minister is weighing three options to staff the extra teaching days. In one plan, teachers would be expected to work on those additional seven days, but would receive seven days of vacation in lieu, to be taken at their discretion.

Another option would be for those additional seven days to not be devoted to the regular curriculum but rather to enrichment activities. The teachers would be given preference if they want to run the activities on those days; otherwise, schools would engage other staff.

A third option, which is considered less likely to be approved, would be to give the teachers less vacation and force them to work on the extra days.

“We are talking about a heavy burden on working parents in Israel, and I am sensitive to their feelings,” Bennett said. “We are working to bring a comprehensive and serious solution to the gap between the parents’ vacation days and those of their children.”

Bennett said that he is working with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) on the solution, and will first seek out approval from the teachers’ union for any plan.

“Calculations that we have conducted show that finding a solution to the problem of vacations will boost the economy and increase the GDP because parents will be able to work,” Bennett said. “We are currently holding discussions with the Finance Ministry.”

Teachers oppose measures to lengthen the school year, the report said, and say that the state should instead increase the number of paid vacation days to which parents are entitled.

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