The Education Ministry announced a new plan to provide an extra three weeks of optional school in order to shorten the summer vacation and keep children in the lower grades busy while their parents are at work.
Education Minister Shai Piron and Finance Minister Yair Lapid presented the proposal at a Thursday press conference in which they explained how the plan, which aims to save parents thousands of shekels, is to be implemented.
“This isn’t a pilot plan, it’s a revolution,” declared Piron. “We are responsible for every child in Israel, at all hours of the day, at every age.”
The new program is to begin next summer. Vacation for some 200,000 first- and second-graders will begin on July 21 instead of at the beginning of the month. In addition, 30,000 third- to fifth-graders in outlying communities will also take part in the scheme. In summer 2015, the plan will be expanded to include all children from first to fifth grades.
The extra days of voluntary school time will feature lessons from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and cover culture, academic enrichment, and recreational topics.
Lapid explained that the plan aims to help parents cope with Israel’s two-month-long school break, which forces some to take time away from work or pay thousands of shekels to cover the cost of day camps.
“There is a mismatch between the number of vacation days for children and for working parents,” Lapid said. “It weighs on parents, and our job is to change the situation.”
Parents who take advantage of the new program will be expected to help cover the cost of the extra days, with the amount of their contribution depending on their means. Fees are to run from full subsidization in the lowest socioeconomic areas to up to NIS 400 ($113) per child in wealthier areas.
The project is expected to cost some NIS 215 million ($61 million), of which the NIS 160 million ($45 million) is to come from the state, NIS 10-15 million ($2.8 million-$4.2 million) from the national lottery, and NIS 40 million ($11.3 million) from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.
According to its website, the ICFJ was founded in 1983 and aims “to promote understanding and cooperation between Jews and Christians, and to build broad support for Israel and other shared concerns.” The foundation funds programs that fight poverty in Israel and help Jews from the former Soviet Union, India, Ethiopia, and elsewhere to resettle in Israel.