Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Lag Ba'omer Problem, and the Friday Solution

It’s that time of the year again. When working parents in Israel complain about the school vacation schedules. The main complaint can be summed up as “we don’t get off, why should they get off.”
Why now? Simple. The Israeli education system deems Lag Ba’omer, one of the most minor of the minor holidays, important enough to warrant a day off from school. This year, two days off are given. Needless to say, businesses are open, and parents of young school-age children have to make arrangements for their kids, or take a day off from work. It’s inconvenient to say the least.

It’s not just Lag Ba’omer. The Israeli school schedule is full of days which place a particular burden on families with two working parents (or single-parent families with one working parent) and children too young to take care of themselves: Channuka. The week-and-a-half before Pesach. The day after many holidays. Each of these days, to some extent, highlights the fact that the school schedule was not designed with the parents in mind, and the requisite complaining follows.

All the bellyaching over the school schedule, however, distracts from a larger incongruity. True, there are many days on which adults have to go to work while their children don’t have the framework of the school day to occupy them. However, the opposite situation exists as well. but it doesn’t seem to garner much attention. There are many days each year where children have the framework of the school day to occupy them, while adults (mostly) do not have to go to work.

These days are called “Fridays”.

For some reason, the educational sector operates on a schedule which is out of sync with the business sector.

So here’s a wild suggestion - why not eliminate Fridays as school days, and redistribute the days throughout the year? This is both practical and doable.

It’s practical since it coordinates the educational and business sectors with each other. Businesses generally operate on a five-day week; so can school. It’s doable since there is one body which is in charge of the schedule school year.

(There are some issues with this proposal, which I plan to deal with in one or more later posts.)

The days gained (30+) by eliminating Fridays as school days could be used to reduce or eliminate the vacations given to students throughout the year. Not all need to be cancelled (a winter break is normal in many school systems), but the ones which just plain don’t make sense could be done away with. For starters, Lag Ba’omer could be a school day. So could the day after holidays, the weirdly-long pre-Pesach vacation, and other days which leave parents of school-age children scrambling to make arrangements for their kids.

As head of the finance ministry, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid has been promising to put the working-class center stage. Yesh Atid member Shai Piron, who heads the education ministry, should endeavor to do the same.

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