Shomron Kindergarten
Shomron KindergartenYoni Kempinski

The new law providing a free kindergarten education is great for parents, but, as it turns out, hard on kindergarten teachers. And to register their protest, unions representing the teachers this week declared a work dispute. Under Israeli labor laws, the teachers will be eligible to call a strike within two weeks, unless their grievances are addressed, the unions said.

Among the main problems for the teachers, said the union, is dealing with the personal needs of such young children. Many of the younger children are not yet completely toilet trained, and unlike in private nursery schools or day care centers, kindergarten teachers are expected to follow a curriculum – which does not leave time, or desire, for that matter, to change diapers, the union said. In previous years, the youngest children were no younger than four years of age, and in many cases teachers had tacit permission from school administrators to gently demand that parents ensure that their children were fully toilet trained before they came to school.

Teachers are demanding more help in the classroom. A typical kindergarten class has some 35 children, with one assistant helping the teacher. In a group where the majority of children have to be “changed,” it is impossible for teachers and assistants to get their educational work done, along with attending to the children's personal needs.

And unless their demands are met, the union said, kindergarten-age children – both toilet-trained and otherwise – will have to remain at home.