The school year 5770 (2009-10) opened today throughout the country with barely a hitch. Over 1.5 million pupils and more than 385,000 nursery school students scampered off to begin what will be their routine for the next ten months.
As has become tradition, leading officials toured various schools and wished the students a successful year. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited the Yahad school in Modiin, a semi-private religious/secular mixed school, and told the students that he now realizes that “the classes are even more important than recess.” President Shimon Peres, accompanied by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, visited two schools – one Jewish, one Arab – in the capital. Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni and Education Minister Gideon Saar also toured some schools.
The total number of students is nearly 34,000 more than last year, which itself was 20,000 more than the year before. For at least the second year in a row, the number of classes has increased while the number of teachers has dropped. Some 121,000 teachers will teach in approximately 57,000 classes – a 2.12-to-1 ratio, compared with 2.42 two years ago.
Union Explains Why They Didn't Strike
The Union of Local Authorities and the High School Teachers Union announced that they would not disturb the opening of the school year by striking, largely because of the relatively new entry into their positions of Education Minister Gideon Saar and Education Ministry Director-General Dr. Shimshon Shoshani. The two organizations said they intend to solve problems that may arise this year without striking.
However, some parents’ organizations may strike schools because of the lack of guards. The national school system is said to be lacking well over 1,000 guards, largely because the police have upgraded the standards and not enough guards meet the new qualifications. The police are filling in temporarily, but Teachers Union head Ran Erez has asked Minister Saar to solve the problem.
A handful of schools are not yet open or are on strike because of local problems, such as cuts in transportation.
The Shomron Regional Council – one of the largest in Judea and Samaria – reports that its student body of 12,650 students grew by 6% this year, five times the national average. Ten new kindergartens opened this school year, and 800 bus routes operated daily to carry students and teachers to schools in the region and to neighboring towns. Some 42% of the population is under the age of 17, and 70% of the students are eligible for matriculation certificates, compared to the national average of 56%.
President Shimon Peres took part in the dedication of a new school building earlier this week, telling the high school students in Nofei HaBesor in the western Negev, “It is now your generation’s turn to take matters into your hands and lead… The State of Israel is proud of you. You went through difficult years facing Hamas rockets, but you tenaciously continued to study. We continue to dream of peace; we are a strong nation, full of vision, and we will win.”