First of all, only 5-year-old kindergarten is mandatory. 3 and 4-year-olds will have free preschool until 2 PM. There will be an option of an afterschool program until 4. Parents who wish to remove their children at 1 PM will be able to, with a note of explanation. “I want my children to have lunch with me at home” is a good enough reason, not “I need to take my cleaning lady to the bus stop.” In other words, it should benefit the child.
According to Hayman, the education ministry does not see the long day (until 4 PM, or even until 2) as in the best interests of children. But they are trying to meet the needs of working parents.
Hayman says that parents need to speak up to get better conditions for children in preschool. Two adults to 35 children is not acceptable. This is a much lower ratio than in any other comparable country.
Here’s the original post below. I removed the controversial paragraph about 8 hours of preschool for 3-5 year-olds, since that is going to be optional.
The government has promised to implement the law to provide free education and a long school-day to 3 and 4-year-olds next year, after the pressure of the summer social protests. Many parents are already complaining about the longer day of gan.
The education ministry is scrambling to find staff for 1500 new kindergartens. According to Haaretz (Hebrew), they plan to use students and recently retired teachers. One former teacher laughed and said she doesn’t think there will be many takers. While she loved every minute she worked, she’ll stick with retirement. She reports on a shortage of qualified teachers in recent years.
The article also reports that the educational ministry asked teacher colleges to schedule classes for fourth-year “intern” teaching students in the afternoon, so they could work full time beginning in September. Intern Meital Cohen says that most fourth-year students and recent graduates work as fill-in teachers in one or more kindergartens, substituting for the main teacher one or two days a week. This way they get a feel for the job, without the responsibility of planning lessons, managing staff, and dealing with parents. Cohen started off this way, but got promoted when the main teacher died suddenly. She regrets taking the job, for which she was she was not fully prepared. Her studies have suffered.
The article did not address the issue of facilities—where will all of these new kindergartens be housed? Current kindergartens have no cooking facilities, so lunch will be transported and remain unrefrigerated, which is already the case in some afterschool programs. And parents would also like children to have a place to rest.
Public kindergarten classrooms in Israel contain up to 35 children with one teacher and one assistant, in a stand-alone building with no backup. Add an inexperienced or older teacher, working six or seven full hours (8-2, or 8-3:30 in some locations), and you have a recipe for disaster.
But it’s good news for those of us with older children choosing a career. As a kindergarten teacher, they’ll never be unemployed.
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