Israeli Teachers Strike End, High School Students Back to School


Back to School for Israeli High School Students
Photo by Fukagawa

Israeli high school students will return to school today for the first time since October, as the teachers strike concluded this Thursday.

After months of politicking and arguing over some very valid issues, here are the results of the strike:

  • It was the longest strike in Israeli educational history, lasting 65 days, 48 of which were school days
  • Teachers received a 17% wage increase overall: 8.5% of which will be given immediately, along with an additional 5% given to all public workers for “wage erosion” (additional raises are promised over the next 13 months)
  • Teachers will now be teaching 2 additional classroom hours per week
  • The number of students per classroom will be lowered
  • The school year will be extended 10– 20 days
  • Teachers will be fully reimbursed for the strike– now that’s interesting

Note that in a recent study on Israeli priorities, education was the number one concern, followed by security, corruption, and poverty.

Why Israeli Education Matters: Claim Your Stake

Our Israeli mantra is that our number one natural resource is the brainpower of our people. As much as we believe this, we aren’t acting as if it is true.


Can you imagine your children missing two months of their education? What would happen, how would they make it up? What would you tell them?

Ask yourself why Israeli education matters to you– what’s your stake? I am a stakeholder in Israeli education as:

  • A Jew
  • An Israeli
  • The future parent of an Israeli student
  • A strong believe that Israel’s technological prowess is the key to our stability in the Middle East
  • A fundraiser for Israeli universities and someone who cares deeply about education
  • A colleague to parents of high school and university students
  • A peer and friend of university students (and possibly future graduate of an Israeli university)
  • A former teacher

Photo by Tom Roy Hobbs

Recommended Reading

Refer to my original post for the background information: “Supporting Israeli Education: 100,000 Demonstrate for Teachers’ Rights”


Sources for this post can be found: here, here, here, and here.



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9 Responses to Israeli Teachers Strike End, High School Students Back to School

  1. Shai says:

    “Stakeholder”. If we’d all see our role as such, education in Israel would be much better. The difficulty is that the Israeli system has evolved an apathetic public due to:

    1) Non-representative government (meaning, persons do not represent populations, parties do, and they elect persons who answer to the party, not the citizens).
    2) Undeveloped balance of power between government branches
    3) Result of army culture (which almost everyone goes through), which conditions young people to be submissive and accepting of government orders, and strengthens the “frier” mentality (or avoidance thereof).
    4) The massive imbalance of economic/political access between rich and poor that results in uneven access to “influenceability”.

    Sometimes, I get frustrated and think the only thing that’d change things is a civil uprising, but I sense that that’d have an equal chance of destroying us altogether. If 400,000 people gather in JLM to say they don’t want it split, and if 150,000 gather to tell Olmert to step down, and still the first is a possibility and the 2nd ignored, why would anybody feel they are “stakeholders”? In non-Israeli terms, is it any wonder that people just “walk” away from their Jewish communities, because they feel they are being patronized rather than included in their communities?

    To be a stakeholder, there has to be some sense of cause and effect – I behave this way, that happens. I take on this obligation, I receive that in return. And responsibility – are both sides of the argument willing to relate to each other as if they are stakeholders, or rather “employees” or “clients” or “bosses”?

    In America, American Labor passed through this stage the hard way. Eventually, after Reagan broke the strike of the Air Traffic Controllers, and after jobs from heavy industry went to the south, and then left the US altogether, and after non-Union shops offered competition, they started to work WITH business (and vice versa) to create a work community where people have a greater sense of “shareholding”. It can be better, but it’s a start. We need to see it in Israel with the schools, too. In my opinion, the way to achieve it with schools is:

    1) Give parents control over where their kids go to school. Give them vouchers, with less successful students getting larger vouchers (accounting for additional help they’ll need to pull them up in rank), and let the schools compete.

    2) Principals who don’t bring scores up will be sent packing.

    3) Give principals the power to send unsuccessful teachers packing, if after training them to perform better they continue to fail.

    4) Increase the school day from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm, and add extra curricular activities (sports, music, art, etc.) to bring the day to 4:30 pm. Build extra school classrooms so that teachers teach no more than 28 students at a time (max., not average).

    5) Give homework, every day, 30 minutes to 1 hour.

    6) Demand summer school for remedial work, or to offer those who wish to advance additional instruction.

  2. thenewjew says:

    Hi Shai,

    Excellent points. I could only speak to the technicalities of the American school system, not Israeli at this point as I only have an external view (although it is internal to Israeli society).

    How old are your kids and how many years were each in the American versus Israeli school systems?


  3. Shai says:

    My children arrived at ages 11, 8 and 4. The first was mostly American educated, but the others were largely Israeli educated.

    All were educated in private/semi-private schools, because, frankly, we chose to skimp on other things to afford better schooling (that still, in America, would probably not be “good enough”). My youngest, who is born in Israel, has been in private schools for the last 1.5 years as the public school classes at 38-40 children (boys) were just too distracting for him and he couldn’t learn. He hated it. It made him feel unintelligent. He’s at the age where his self-image is forming, so we found a school with 70 children in it, with ages 6 to 17 (A Democratic School using the Sudbury Method). He loves it there. But the tuition is high.

    Most Israelis couldn’t manage the tuition fees and the truth is they shouldn’t have to. With vouchers, we could decide what’s best for our children. But considering that per pupil we’re spending similar amounts to other nations that perform better than we do, we must be doing something wrong with the money – perhaps if the teachers’ union didn’t completely submarine the Dovrat recommendations, we’d already be on the way to a better system (which in some respects I described in the previous comment).

    There’s a bureaucratic attitude that is process rather than results oriented here. Bureaucrats like to make checkmarks within the curriculum, “done that, done that, done that”, but at the end of the day they’re completely flummoxed when it doesn’t turn out as they wish. If they’d allow more competition between ideas, they could see which ones work best and make them available to all schools.

    I think they should give each school more power over the process, as long as they can ensure the results. We have to let teachers, parents and principals use their own creativity and minds to improve our educational institutions. It can’t always be “Ministry of Education knows best”. Of course there are no guarantees we can do better than the MofE. But unfortunately, with the poor performance of the MofE over the last 2 decades, nobody thinks that a parent/principal/teacher alliance can do any worse!

  4. thenewjew says:

    Dear Shai,

    Would you have also chosen private school for your children in America? Do you feel that the school systems differ so greatly between the two countries other than the class size? Or, is it different in the US because you can choose your school by choosing your community, whereas there is more uniformity in Israel?

    Do you think that part of Israel’s problem is that because we are a small country the Ministry of Education takes on the overall role for standard and regulation setting in education that might elsewhere (e.g. in the US) be done by district or regional offices?

    How much power, in your opinion as I know you are very involved in the community where you live, do the individual schools have?


  5. Shai says:

    In the US I lived in districts with excellent public schools. Nevertheless, since my children require parochial schools, I would have chosen private education. I feel, parenthetically, that the Jewish community in America has made a huge mistake in their orthodox attitude to separation of church and state, such that it has strongly opposed school vouchers for the SECULAR programs offered in private schools. It is my opinion that the priniciple of public education as an institution that lifts all boats has, on the whole, sunk more than it lifted and that school-choice is a better way to achieve the objective that public education was designed to achieve in multi-cultural societies.

    Regarding whether we are a small country, I have a few observations.

    First, we’re not so small. Many districts in the US consist of less than a quarter million people, for example, and with that as a size, say, Israel could have nearly 30 independent districts.

    Second, while we may have a single government we are actually several countries. In some way this is expressed in there being separate recognized networks for Chareidim, Datiim, Arabs and everyone else. For political reasons, none of the standardization you refer to gets applied to Arab and Chareidi schools, anyway.

    Third, “standard and regulation setting” has much more in it than an intent to achieve “good education” as a result. There are facility issues, budget issues, union issues, political issues, service issues- all of which in an ideal condition would be streamlined by having a single overseeing organization. But when the organization is not lithy enough to be responsive to rapid changes on the ground, it becomes more concerned with trying to work within its own system than it is with trying to resolve problems. That’s why the “standard and regulation setting” might look good on paper, and may succeed in some places, but why it fails here. There simply is no overall vision or value that the whole country is tied into enough to break the logjam. That’s why we waited for two months for resolution without a peep. The system is best at teaching apathy, that in the end the system is not in our hands.

    That’s why I think we need to have competing districts, with schools within them that compete for students. The districts that do the worst might benefit from more input/funding from a national Ministry of Education, but for the rest, it holds them back in order to give the ILLUSION of raising all boats. It’s really lowering them all, as we see in recent testing results.

    Individal schools, except for schools that are not funded by the Min of E, have too little power, mostly due to tenure/union rules. We as parents, for example, have a principal we consider inadequate to the task. He’s good, he’s friendly, he’s working within the system and maybe can’t achieve more, and he’s better than the last principal, but if we seek another principal there is no guarantee we’ll get a better one. The Min of E decideds, not us, who our principal is. We have no say. Then, there is the whole matter of funding – they have all kinds of programs that they pass, but don’t provide funding for. On paper, it looks great – but none of it happens on the ground. The principal is often somebody who manages the bureacracy and logistics of running a school rather than the learning. If the Min of E wanted to do something useful, it could take these tasks for themselves and allow the principal to focus on teaching.

  6. ARB says:

    Another great story about giving in Israel:

  7. thenewjew says:

    Two great recommendations, thank you. I’ll be writing about them shortly.

    The second one is so odd, however. Bar Ilan is doing a great job with PR for the medical school, but all of the Israeli media stories I am reading make it seem like a done deal. Bar Ilan and the University of Haifa are still bidding on the medical school. Nothing has been decided. Very uneven reporting on this subject.

    Thanks, ARB. Let me know about your progress.


  8. ARB says:

    My pleasure. Did you get my e-mail?

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