Education Minister Naftali Bennett at the Western Wall
Education Minister Naftali Bennett at the Western WallFLASH90

Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) plans to shorten school vacations beginning with the coming school year, Yediot Aharonot reported.

Seven vacation days will be eliminated, lengthening the school year to 227 days.

While the average school year is 180 days, Israeli students are in school for 220 days, making the number of school days one of the highest in the OECD.

Beginning in September, the day after the end of the Sukkot holiday (isru chag) will be a school day, and the Hanukkah and Pesach (Passover) vacations will also be shortened.

These changes will apply to children in grades 1-3, and the Education Ministry is working to include preschool children and older children in the reform as well. However, to do so, the Ministry must first find a budget for it: adding seven days to the school year for children in grades 1-3 is expected to cost millions of shekels.

"It's a heavy burden on Israel's working parents, and I understand them," Bennett said. "We are working to provide an all-encompassing solution to the gap between the vacation days of the parents and those of their children."

Bennett also said he is working with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) to find a solution which will help Israel's economy and gross national product.

"We are currently discussing the options with the Finance Ministry," he said, thanking Kahlon for his cooperation on the matter.

One option would turn the days cut from the official vacations into seven personal days which a teacher may use at any time during the school year, in return for working on the day after Jewish holidays and accepting cuts to the Hanukkah and Pesach vacations.

Another option would base itself off the new "summer school" model, which provides students in grades 1-3 with school-based enrichment activities during the month of July, to take the load off parents. The program is run by some of the school's teachers, in return for an additional salary. However, if a school's teachers are not interested, other candidates can be found instead.

Since the new program would cover only 7-12 days instead of an entire month, parents would enjoy relatively low costs.

The third option, which is not expected to be implemented, would cut the seven vacation days entirely, forcing teachers to work the day after Jewish holidays, and with shorter Pesach and Hanukkah breaks, but without receiving those vacation days back in any form. It is expected that the teachers' unions will strongly object to this change.

Meanwhile, a recent study showed that long hours in childcare can raise cortisol levels and harm children's emotional and cognitive development. And despite the fact that Israel heavily subsidizes daycare and provides free education from the age of 3, and despite the fact that Israeli children spend more days - and hours - in school than children in most OECD countries, Israeli adults ranked near the bottom when it came to reading, math, and problem-solving capabilities. Israel, however, is a country that absorbs immigrants in large numbers, a fact which affects the reliability of standard achievement measures..