New education minister planning 5-day school week for grades 7-12

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New Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton plans to shrink the school week for middle school and high school students in Israel from six to five days starting next year.

The new schedule will supposedly come into effect after the summer vacation, which kicked off on June 20 and will end on September 1. Schools will still be open on Fridays, but the day will be used for other activities in coordination with youth groups and other civil society organizations. The day had previously been shortened to four study hours. These will be added to other days throughout the rest of the week to compensate.

Elementary schools will remain on a six-day schedule for the time being, but the Education Ministry is planning on eventually folding them into the new schedule as well.

Details for the new schedule are still being finalized, but the outline was confirmed to Channel 13 by the Israel Teachers Union and the Education Ministry.

The schedule change is the first major reform initiative by Shasha-Biton.

“The goal is to cancel traditional studies on Friday and to turn it into a social Friday. There will be enriching activities in collaboration with youth groups,” she told Israel Hayom earlier this week, explaining that schools should serve a purpose beyond traditional studies.

“The intention is to create something that will have a significant impact.”

New Minister of Education Yifat Shasha-Biton speaks at a ceremony as she takes over from Yoav Gallant, at the Education Ministry in Jerusalem on June 14, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/FLASH90)

Shasha-Biton said many students suffered a great deal over the last year due to remote learning. She said she was in talks with health and education officials to create a plan to provide more mental health support for students in the event that the pandemic disrupts the next school year as well.

“It was ‘very easy’ to send students home for long periods of time. We cannot give them Zoom study material without addressing the emotional and social ramifications,” she argued. “The idea is to maintain a routine for students if, God forbid, there is another outbreak.”

“I am thrilled from what I hear from professionals that we are currently in a different situation because we are vaccinated and know a lot more about the virus,” Shasha-Biton added.

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