Israel later on Thursday is set to scrap the capsule study system for fouth graders, moving closer to ending coronavirus restrictions on schools as infection rate keeps falling.
Israel's coronavirus restrictions have almost all been lifted due to the country's high-paced vaccination campaign. However, since children below the age of 16 currently cannot be vaccinated, many curbs on the education system have remained in place but are set to expire this Saturday.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said earlier he will table the outline for the ministerial coronavirus cabinet during a meeting later in the day, according to which capsule studies in fourth grades will be eliminated from next week.
As per the outline - which was formulated by senior Health Ministry officials after consultation with the national parents' union - if 10 days after the capsules are scrapped, the infection rate will not increase, the system will also be abolished in grades 5-6.
Additionally, students in grades 7-10 will be allowed to move between four different capsules, instead of the usual two.
The outline also proposes that classes where the students undergo frequent COVID testing, will not have to study in capsule format, while temperature checks at entrances to schools will be abolished across the entire education system.
“Education is the most important thing and we make every effort to open as much as we can while keeping potential risk to students at a minimum,” said Edelstein.
“Keep in mind that with the exception of 11th-12th graders, schoolchildren are yet to be vaccinated and we must protect their health. I thank the leadership of the parents and senior officials in the Health Ministry for the excellent outline they formulated for the benefit of all Israeli students.”
The national parents' union on their part welcomed the move, but lambasted the Health Ministry’s decision to condition the cancellation of capsules in higher grades on COVID tests for students, even in areas where infection rates are low.
"We demand the complete elimination of capsules in middle schools without preconditions, every extra day spent learning remotely, exacerbates the heavy damage done to the students," said the chairman of the national parents' union, Merom Schiff.
"Middle school students have suffered and been hurt more than any other student groups in the education system since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis,” said Schiff, adding the demand was conveyed personally to coronavirus czar, Prof. Nachman Ash, during his meeting with the union's leadership.
On Wednesday, Blue & White announced that they will demand a significant relief of the restrictions imposed on the education system, with an emphasis on grades 7-10, which still study only two days a week in class.
"Immediate agreements must be reached between the Education Ministry and the Health Ministry, regarding an outline which will enable the extensive return of the upper grades, as well as the immediate opening of grades 1-4 to full-time studies."