On Monday morning, approximately two million children started the new school year 5773 in preschools and schools across the country.
This year 270,000 children 3 and 4 years old are taking advantage of the implementation of the Trachtenberg Committee recommendations, and enjoy tuition-free kindergarten. The rest of children will have to wait longer until the rest of the reforms in education are employed.
The year 5773 (2011-12) is also be a watershed year in terms of the religious tone of the Israeli citizenry. A few weeks ago, Deputy Minister of Education Menachem Eliezer Moses (United Torah Judaism) disclosed that for the first time the National Religious and Haredi sectors are represented by over 50% at the pre-school level children. “We are going to be 52% and they (secular Israelis) will be only 48%,” Moses announced.
Moses related that 15 years ago the percentage of Haredim in Israeli educational institutions was only 12.6%. “Today we comprise 32%; and the National Religious are another 20%, and that included Chabad. There is a discrepancy as to whether Chabad is six or seven percent, but it really doesn’t matter.”
At the same time, the Ministry of Education has decided to increase Jewish Studies in the secular state schools in the coming school year. Under the new program, there will be weekly “Jewish Culture Heritage” classes at the middle school level, with knowledge enhancement programs in the higher grades.
According to the new government decision, the state will provide free education for 3 and 4 year-olds in public nursery schools and kindergartens starting with the current school year. The total cost of this benefit is about $200 per student each month.
Jewish Press online correspondent Malkah Fleischer this morning ushered her first born daughter to preschool, and she had this to say afterwards (wiping away some tears):
“Mazal Tov to all the sweet little Israeli children who returned to school today! We are so proud of you, and bless you with the happiest, healthiest year, a year of growth, success, and friendship.
“And Mazal Tov to all you parents. You who treaded the treacherous waters of the seemingly endless summer vacation, planned fun activities, cleaned up after fun activities, peeled sticky, whining, overtired children off the floor after fun activities.
“You who bought a special outfit for your special school girl/boy, braved the wilds of school supply stores for the exactly-right backpack. You who pumped up your school child for another terrific year, planned the extra special first-morning breakfast, prepared the extra special first-day lunch, laid out the special outfit next to the special backpack of exactly the right color, and kissed your bursting-at-the-seems-with-excitement/anxious-about-leaving-you-and-making-new-friends little student goodnight, being called in for more than the usual number of last-one statements and cups of water.”