Labor Party Adopts Education Reform Bill Realigning Primary, Secondary Schools

The Israel Labor Party tonight overwhelmingly adopted the new education reform bill, despite the fears of the National Religious Party that the measure would be harmful to religious education in the country, and over threats of the primary-school teachers that they would strike.

The new measure will realign primary and secondary schools along the American and British lines, setting up a six-year primary school system followed by three years of junior high school and three years of senior high school.

The measure was carried by a vote of 69 to three with 18 abstentions, including the Religious Party members. Agudath Israel supported the measure. The Religious Party opposed the measure because of doubts about the success of the reform and fears of its effect on the Government-supported religious school system.

The measure had been bitterly opposed by the primary school teachers who conducted a one-day protest strike recently against Government plans to proceed with the reform. The teachers assert that in a country like Israel where a basic problem is integration and, where the primary schools are one of the most effective methods of integration, reduction in the number of years in primary school would reduce the schools’ value as a force for integration.

The teachers’ claims were disputed by Minister of Education Zalman Aranne who argued that a special parliamentary committee that had studied the situation had come to a contrary conclusion. The committee, he said, had agreed that the planned reforms would not only speed integration but would make it possible for immigrants from under-developed countries (North Africa) to continue with their studies beyond the primary grades. The minister appealed to the teachers to open a new chapter of cooperation with the Ministry and to abandon the threat of “non-cooperation” when the reforms are introduced.

In adopting the reforms, the Knesset rejected a number of minority compromise proposals including one made by the teachers’ organization that the system be introduced on an experimental basis in one locality alone and then be expanded if it proved satisfactory. He promised that the teachers would be consulted on every aspect as the reforms were put into effect.

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