Source: Jerusalem Post
After months of promising to deal with overcrowding in elementary school classrooms in the face of protests, strikes, and threats to delay the opening of the school year, the "Small Class Reform" was announced by Israel Education Minister Naftali Bennett at a press conference on Thursday morning. After a long night of budget discussions, Bennett boasted about the NIS 50 billion education budget, saying it is the largest education budget in the history of the state. The new reform mandates a maximum of 32-34 pupils per class, depending on the socioeconomic strength of the school district. The plan will go into effect for first grade classes across the country in the upcoming 2015/16 school year and will expand every year to include an additional grade until all six elementary school grades are included.
Education Minister, Naftali Bennett, stressed that he was not cancelling the budget that allows first and second grade classes to divide into two smaller groups for learning mathematics and language lessons, stating that he understands their importance.
In addition to the smaller classes, Bennett also announced a new pilot project that will add assistant teachers to classrooms three days a week.
In the upcoming school year, 1,000 classes will have a student-teacher in addition to the primary teacher. Classrooms across the country, from preschool through high school, will be part of the pilot program, during which the Education Ministry will evaluate the benefits to the classes at different ages and decide on the future of the program.
Just a few months ago, Bennett, along with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, introduced the NIS 400m "Second Assistant Reform" for preschools, in which preschools for ages 3-4 will receive a second assistant if there are 30 or more children. Bennett announced at the press conference on Thursday that the sign up rate for preschools joining that reform is almost 100% and it is set to go underway this upcoming school year, as well.
Michal Cohen, director-general of the Education Ministry, who was also present at the press conference, explained that the two reforms complement each other and that starting the small classroom reform in first grade will help ease the pupils' transition from preschool to first grade.
The approximately NIS 500m price tag for the reform is part of the base education budget agreed upon with the Finance Ministry during budget talks.
Read the entire article at the Jerusalem Post.