Sharp Teacher Shortage Foreseen
Sharp Teacher Shortage Foreseen

Civics classes in Grade 9 have been reduced from three weekly hours to one - reportedly because of a lack of sufficiently trained civics teachers.

Though unemployment is dropping sharply and business sectors are gaining employees, Israel soon won't have enough teachers.

At current rates, Israel will face a shortage of more than 10,500 teachers within five years. This startling statistic was presented to the Knesset Education Committee on Wednesday, based on research by the Knesset Information and Research Center.

Possibly even more disquieting is the fact that 8,000 teachers left the field of education in the first half of 2008 - a much higher rate than usual.  This statistic was among those presented in a Central Bureau of Statistics report of this week, which revealed that unemployment in Israel is at its lowest point in 20 years - 5.9%. 

Industry gained 15,600 employees, real estate gained nearly the same number, and wholesale and retail commerce added 22,400 workers - many of them, apparently, former teachers.

The teaching core in Israel numbers, roughly, some 130,000 teachers this year - 2,500 fewer than the year before, despite an increase of 600 classes. The Education Committee learned that at current rates, the secular public school system will face a shortage of over 5,000 teachers in five years. Even in the hareidi-religious sector, which generally does not have such problems, 1,500 teachers will be missing.

High schools will suffer from the largest shortage - nearly 5,000, while junior high schools are expected to be short "only" 1,900. 

Untrained Teachers

Though "teacher shortage" is a known problem all over the modern world, what it actually constitutes has not been scientifically determined.  Its results can be felt in a concrete manner, however.  For instance, the Education Ministry cut back civics classes in Grade 9 from three weekly hours to one - reportedly because not enough teachers are sufficiently trained to teach civics. 

Tumber of registrants in treacher-training courses in English, math, and sciences has dropped drastically.

Other disciplines similarly suffer from insufficiently-trained teachers.

In addition, the number of registrants in treacher-training courses in English, math, and sciences has dropped drastically.  In at least one teacher-training school, the math and physics courses were recently closed down. 

Teacher shortage trends are sometimes measured quantitatively, comparing the numbers of those who enter the field, those who leave the field, and how long teachers remain in the field.  Others compare the relative ages of teachers; if those over the age of 50 in a given discipline outnumber those under 30 - as is the case in many Jewish educational networks across the country - the forecast for that field is negative. 

Noach Greenfeld, who heads the Teachers Training Branch in the Education Ministry, told the Yisrael HaYom newspaper that solutions are being prepared, including guiding English-speaking immigrants to English-teaching courses, and training academics with a BA in English or science to teach those subjects.