After perhaps the longest teachers’ strike in Israeli educational history, members of the country’s secondary school and university instructor faculties finally reached a tentative agreement to allow all classes to resume at the end of the Hanukkah holiday. The strike lasted 65 days and the results of it will probably be felt for quite while by both students and teachers as they try to pick up when they left off at the beginning of strike back in early October. The leading characters involved, Israel Secondary School Teachers Organization Secretary Ran Erez and Education Minister Yuli Tamir, shown shaking hands here in front of Finance Minister Ronnie Bar On, reached an agreement in which the teachers were promised a pay raise of between 5 and 8.5 % over the nest three years with a possibility of it being eventually raised to 25%. The secondary school teachers were also promised that the Finance Ministry would appropriate about 1.5 billion New Shekels to construct more classrooms and make other changes that would reduce the average number of students per class to 30 instead of the present 36.
Other parts of the still to be completed agreement include allowing teachers to teach more hours per day which they claim is essential for the quality of education needed in today’s world. Another agreement is the payment of salaries not received by the teachers during the 9 week strike. While not what he had been hoped for, Secretary Erez said that “we have achieved all of the goals for which we fought”. The most important one achieved was that the teachers were able to pressure the government to giving in to at least a plausible agreement, and were not forced to return to the classrooms by a court order or other means of force.
It wasn’t the best deal they could make, but it wasn’t the worst one either. Many people, including some Knesset members who backed the teachers, said that the strike’s ending missed a golden opportunity to implement real reforms in the country’s educational program, once rated as being in the top percentile of the word’s educational systems.
Arguments back and forth are trying to determine who really won out in this contest of wills. For sure, the students didn’t, at least this school year anyway, as any reforms in their favor won’t actually take effect for some time. Those in the last two grades, 11 and 12, will have to work extra hard to catch up for what they lost during the strike, and the damage done will only be known later.
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