Who Will Be Watching Your Kids Next Year?

'Jack being cheeky' photo (c) 2006, melalouise - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Update: I spoke with Shoshana Hayman of the Life Center, who has been meeting with the education ministry to address parents’ concerns about the new system.

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.

You may also enjoy:

Mothering and the Teaching Profession

 Is a Long Day of Gan Good?

Thinking Outside the “Misgeret”: Childrearing Norms in Israel



  1. I really enjoy your blog, but there is a certain theme that comes up a lot that I really don’t. That is the working vs non working thread. I am a working mom. I have three beautiful intelligent creative funny girls. They have all been in childcare starting from 4-6 months. It frustrates me how you write with such certainty that childcare is bad for children. My children have two loving present parents. For the past three years when I was working on my PHD I had a long commute – my husband – an elementary school teacher and Rabbi was able to pick up the kids every day. This year I BH finished my PhD and I have a more flexible schedule working in Jerusalem just two days a week, and working locally two days a week. My husband is teaching at a highschool which is farther away and he has more afternoon hours.
    There are very few jobs that allow one to be home by 1:30 every day. Many couples who don’t have parental support need two incomes to survive. I have friends who have chosen both paths, and I don’t see an overwhelming difference between child’s behavior, academic performance, middot, connection to parents, overall happiness and how much the mother works. In a brief survey of the scientific literature it doesn’t seem like there are any overwhelming conclusions – it doesn’t seem to be clear that one is better than the other. I try not to judge, but rather be accepting of people’s choices especially when I do not know what stands behind them. Please try and do the same.
    Yael Maizels

    • Yael, thanks for your comments. Immigrants have it especially hard, because they often don’t have extended family to help out like many native Israelis do. So they are more dependent on public or private daycare.

      There are many valid reasons for both parents to work including financial stability and career development. I do think, though, that it is not in the best interest of children to make full-time daycare the default option for all young children. This is not the same thing as judging mothers who go out to work full time. Even if you believe that full-time daycare doesn’t harm children, isn’t that partially dependent on the quality of daycare?
      I want all parents to have good choices for their children, especially poor families, and not be pushed by the government into a decision that does not work for them.

      In my blog I try to look at things from the children’s point of view, something I rarely see happening in Israeli discourse. My opinion is that full-time daycare is not an ideal choice for young children. I hope that working parents can hear that without feeling judged, and of course they are free to disagree. I do recognize that we don’t live in an ideal world, and parents make the best choices they can according to their individual situations.

      • Hannah, if you try to see things from a child’s point of view then consider these points: most children need to eat, they also prefer to have a house, clothing and happy parents. Unfortunately, those things are not possible (in most cases) unless both parents work full time. I agree with YB, your anti working mothers (not anti-working fathers) is a common theme in a blog that I otherwise love and respect.

      • Hannah, since you want to see things from a child’s point of view, try to consider the following: most children need to eat, have a warm place to sleep, clothing and happy parents. Unfortunately, unless both parents work, that is (most often) just not possible. I agree with YB, I love and respect your blog, but the anti working mom theme keeps rearing its ugly head (not anti working dad somehow).

        • If this post made working mothers feel judged or somehow unwelcome here, I am truly sorry. That was not my intention.

          I do feel that the personal attack is undeserved. To question whether full-time large-group daycare is the direction that the government should be heading is not the same as judging mothers who return to work. Quality of daycare should not be a taboo subject. It should be open for discussion like any other parenting topic. But I see that it is an extremely sensitive topic and people’s feelings were hurt.

          On this blog I do devote space to supporting mothers (or fathers! where did you get this idea that I think it’s all on the mothers–I don’t and I think that remark was a low blow) who work part time or stay home. That is where my experience lies and I’m not going to apologize for that. I feel that parents who give up or delay careers do not get enough support in our culture.

          BUT that is not the same thing as judging mothers who work full time and rely on day care. If I had to do it again, I might have made different choices myself. I do not think that all mothers of small children should give up their careers and stay home for 5 years.

          I also have posts on working mothers, like the Tips for Helping an 18-Month-Old Adjust to Day Care or Ariela’s guest post on working and breastfeeding. And I would be happy to include more posts that support working mothers.

    • Yael, I also make choices that are not ideal! All parents do. We have many concerns that go into our decisions–what is ideal for the child is not always ideal for the whole family.

      • Hannah, That is exactly my point. I don’t think I am making a decision that is not ideal. You think child care at this age is bad. I do not.

        To bring an example from a different sphere. I would feel the same way if someone charedi would come up to me and say – admit it – modern orthodoxy is a pshara – you’re settling for a lesser form of Judaism. I don’t see Modern orthodoxy as a compromise.
        I don’t see a warm loving childcare option with competent staff, free play, developmentally appropriate stimulation and healthy food (maybe I’m compromising on the food!) as a compromise. I see happy well adjusted children and happy parents.

        • Yael, good analogy. But this is a blog, and I don’t expect all my readers to agree with everything I post. That’s why there is a comments section. I realize that if I go too far in a certain direction I will gain some new readers and lose others. For instance, if I talk too much about exclusion of women some haredi readers might feel uncomfortable. I am glad you spoke up and I updated the post, also in light of Dan’s comments.

        • I really agree Yael. I much prefer the attitude in this country that raising children is a communal experience as opposed to the American/British attitude that it’s all on the mom and kids have to be home for as long as possible. My kids have only benefited from having some kind of childcare from as early as 5 months and Lord knows, so have I.

          I have made mistakes in choosing ganim- when I saw my son at 2 was not adjusting to a new gan and was actually hitting a lot more, I took him out and found another one, where he settled in and was clearly much happier. And I don’t think he was scarred for life because he spent a month at less than ideal gan.

    • Please don’t make this about working (out of the house) vs not.

      As an olah pretty-chadash, one of the things I think Hannah does best is point out the “caveat emptor” in decisions made by the government (or other parties). The facilities issue is an enormous one, I think. My 3 yo still napped–but he was in a private gan where this was encouraged.

      Also, there are many ways to care for children for enough hours that their parents can work full time. A 1:17 caregiver:child ratio for 8 hours a day (which will also cause some headaches in terms of hours, right? because the Israeli work week is actually 42.5 hours), with underqualified (or “overqualified”) teachers can’t possibly be the best choice for every child.

      • But it’s rarely 1:17 for a full day for most kids. Any time my kids have been in tzaharon, the entire gan has never stayed for the full day. The afternoon is usually 1:10 or even 1:7 (my son’s tzaharon this year has 3 gannanot in the afternoon). A lot of grandparents do pitch in, people choose private tzaharon, teachers and gannanot pick up their kids early, as do SAHM’s. I just don’t think it’s reasonable to go with the pure ratios.

        Private gan has its advantages, but at the end of the day, there is no real supervision. At least when we were dissatisfied with the tzaharon, the parents had an address to complain to and the supervisor was out their, checking up on things and following up with the parents. That’s the flipside.

  2. Just a few problems with this post:

    1. While the government is extending free pre-school education to 3 and 4 year olds, it is not mandatory. If you don’t need it or would rather use a private pre-school, you still have that option.

    2. Pre-school goes to 13:30 and most kids arrive at around 8:00. That’s 5 and a half hours – not 8.

    3. It looks like, because of the issues you stated with a lack of physical space and teachers, the placement for the upcoming year will have highest priority for older kids and work down to the younger kids – in fact, it looks like most kids under 3.5 years old won’t be able to take advantage of this.

    4. As a parent of a 3 year old who I need to have in a day care or pre-school environment, the NIS 20,000 that this will save me next year is extremely important. Day care is expensive and we can’t afford to have only one working parent.

    5. Most of the teachers at the new centers that will be opened are people who have been working for a while as substitutes and the freshly graduated will become the new substitutes.

    While the ideal might be to have a parent with a young child as much as possible, the harsh reality is that this is not always an option.

    Dan Shernicoff

    • Thanks, Dan, for your comments.
      1. Ye, you are correct and I updated the post.
      2. It’s until 2 PM, and in some places until 3:30. But parents will be able to take their kids out at 1, which will mean more attention for the kids that remain.
      3. Then it could be that a lot of kids under 4 also won’t have the option.
      4. Of course it is good for the affected parents, but the question is whether this is the best use of taxpayer money.
      5. The article in Haaretz seems to contradict this, saying that even now there are not enough qualified gananot. Some will be promoted from part time work, but others will retire.

      • Hannah –

        Regarding your answers:
        2. In Modi’in, gan is till 13:30. There are options till 16:30 which you pay for. Gan Hova as part of Hativa Tzaira is till 14:00 with options till 16:45. My son, who is in Gan Hova has tzaharon until 16:45 where they combine the children from 3 different kindergartens, so it’s the same number of children. Also, ganim with a tzaharon option require at least 25 kids for the tzaharon.
        3. You’re right. The government is estimating that all children 3.5 and over will have access to the free ganim. I think in Modi’in it will be something on the order of 90% of 3 and up will have access to free ganim.
        4. The law was updated in 1984 to include all children from the age of 3. The fact that it took almost 30 years to enact it is shameful to the government of Israel.
        5. There are never enough qualified gananot, and this wil lprobably exacerbate the problem. With that, it is unlikely that many gananot will come directly from new graduates.

        • Dan, in Buchman our ironi gan runs till 2 pm. I believe it’s the same in the whole city. Meorot Modiin (Shas) or the Democratic/Yozma ganim might be different.

          You can look in the official gan “choveret” linked on the muni website. This is for next year but gan has been running till 2 pm all of this year as well ( my son goes to Gilboa on the edge of Buchman). http://www.modiin.muni.il/ModiinWebSite/GlobalFiles/012920111229121651.pdf

          • Last year my son was in Ironi and it ran till 13:30. This year he is in hativa tzairah at a school with Ofek Hadash and it runs till 14:00. I didn’t realize that the trom had also changed till 14:00. I stand corrected. 🙂

  3. “Even if you believe that full-time daycare doesn’t harm children, isn’t that partially dependent on the quality of daycare”
    It’s not that I don’t think full time daycare doesn’t harm children. I think for some children thrive in a framework/misgeret (sounds better in Hebrew). Of course it is dependent on the quality of the daycare and I think that parents need to do their homework and make educated decisions about what is best for their child and best for their family. I try and have really special time with my kids when they are home. I try to have energy for that. Even in our dati leumi world which is largely TV free – my kids don’t have more than 1 hour a week of computer time. On the other hand I have stay at home and working mom friends who are awed by the fact that we don’t park our kids in front of DVDs for at least an hour a day.

    “My opinion is that full-time daycare is not an ideal choice for young children.”
    My comment related to that- I hear that loud and clear in your blog – and sometimes it makes me want to stop reading. How can one read that except as judgmental? We all want what is best for our kids!

    • “My opinion is that full-time daycare is not an ideal choice for young children.”
      Pehaps you can qualify that and say it is not ideal for your young children, since it is idead for my young children

  4. Naomi goldberg says

    The same people who watch my child for 8 hours a day this year will watch him for 8 hours a day next year. Tzaharon has always been a necessity for us, only next year it will be 20,000 sh cheaper. For the record, if my son was in the UK he would be in school 8.30-4pm. This concept of 4 year olds only learning for half a day does not exist anywhere else

    • Growing up in the US I was used to a full day of school from 8:00 – 15:30. The half day of studies here seems insane to me.

      • I had half-day kindergarten, and US public schools go from 9-3, with a lunch hour and only 5 days a week.

        • Minor quibble – I have kids in public school who go 8:45-3:15, including for kindergarten, and lunch is more like half an hour. Doesn’t sound much different, but it’s an hour longer than you’re claiming.

          Like you, I myself had half day kindergarten, but that’s rapidly going away.

          • Depends where you live. In NY, where I am from, it is almost all full day, and extended day has been the norm in many areas since the 1980s (I remember my sister going till 1pm or so in 1987).

            I live in Pennsylvania, and none of the districts in my area offer full day except for children in need of extra help, and one district where all the children are so it is universal (and they were discussing going back to half day because of budget cuts—with a doomsday threat of cutting K altogether since it is not required here!)

            Half day preschool is still very common for children with only one working parent, however.

            Many schools have only 40 minutes for lunch and recess combined now.

  5. I don’t understand this whole thing about needing to open 1500 new ganim. Is the assumption that until this law came into effect, tons of three and four year olds were home with their parents? That certainly isn’t the case in my community in Modiin. All parents of three year olds here, even where one parent is home full time, put their children in childcare that meets every day, at least until midday. In fact I hardly know any stay at home mothers here whose one year olds are home with them. Is it very different in other communities in Israel?
    I also don’t really understand the concern about the long day. Even if they do like the kids to stay until two, I’ve never been hassled about bringing my child in as late as I feel like bringing him. Now in chova I try to get him there before tfila at 8:30 (on days I’m not working, otherwise he’s there earlier because we need the childcare), but in trom he’d often sail in after nine and no one said boo.

    • This year they’d be saying “boo”. With the new Ofek program we were told DS#2 had to arrive by 8:00 (last year it was 8:30). Also, honestly, it’s disruptive when everyone else has arrived and one child “sails in” so much later. I know in both my big boys’ ganim they have tefilla at 8:30 and mifgash right after…and my kids HATE missing mifgash, even when there’s a valid reason for it (like a medical appointment).

    • The municipalities haven’t offered ganim to all 3-4 year olds. Many of these kids are currently in private ganim. There is also natural population increase–I read that a new gan’s worth of children is born each month in Elad!

      • What do you mean by this: “The municipalities haven’t offered ganim to all 3-4 year olds”. I’ve never heard of someone being turned away from an ironi trom or trom trom gan who wanted to send their child.

      • THis was in response to Marion. In Petach Tikva, there are only a handful of religious ganim run by the city for 3yos–there are many more secular ganim but most 3yos are not in municipal ganim. They They will have to open dozens of ganim to accommodate these kids.

        • perhaps it varies by municipality but in MA even the Chabad ganim are part of the public system. i think there is ONE private gan and it’s an English language gan…

        • Personally, I’ve never heard of anyone being rejected from an ironi gan because of lack of room if the child fit the age criteria. Ranaana and Modiin also have Chabad/Shas ganim that are part of the public system. That’s strange that PT seems to have such a lack of public ganim for 3 year olds.

  6. I work in a creche in Australia (ages 1year to 3.5) and we are open from 7:30 until 6pm and some children are at creche nearly that long. It is not a private one, rather under the umbrella of a Jewish religious (Chabad) school, although most of the parents are not religious. Sounds like there might be work for me in Israel! The days are much shorter than here. My usual days are 8:30 until 5pm.

  7. I am concerned about the option mentioned for parents to take their kids out at 13:00 when gan ends at 14:00. Even if kids love gan, it is hard for them to see some of their friends going home. It also makes me concerned that a lot of the last hour in gan will be wasted – some of it will be spent on greeting the parents coming in at13:00 and the kids who are staying will not be properly occupied. That hour between 13:00 and 14:00 might become disruptedand that’s a shame after the 14:00 option has worked so well for many moms and kids.

    • I am actually surprised that this will be allowed. Perhaps the choice will be 13:00 or 16:00 only, not 13:00, 14:00 or 16:00?

      We were expressly told at the beginning of this year (with the new 14:00 pickup) that children would NOT be allowed to be picked up early. I have a 1x/wk standing appt for my other child at 14:00 and once the machlifa gannenet told me when I tried to take my son out at 13:55 that if I didn’t send in a note that she could be arrested. (Which, whatever, but clearly it’s Very Discouraged.)

  8. I hope gan doesn’t end at 4:00! I have one who’s supposed to be in until 3:30 this year and we take him out every day (actually, the hasa’a does) and put him in “regular” tzaharon until 4:45 because, frankly, I refuse to have my 5 year old come home to an empty house and I can’t work “only” 7.5 hours a day and maintain my full-time status. I pay extra for the “extended hour” at daycare so I can get a full workday in. 4:00, though the same ending time as the meonot, is a useless 2 hours, especially when currently tzaharon goes until 4:45. Who can afford to LOSE time?

  9. teen in america says

    I’ve been getting home at 7 since 8th grade, after a school-day that lasts until 5:45. The teachers only teach about half of that time at most. I think that the teachers won’t be losing anything by this unless their children attend these schools. I know that I spend very little time with my family during the week now, and that is a potential loss to the mothers.