What did you learn in school today, dear little boy of mine? The use of teacher work hours in primary schools
This paper examines the use of teachers' work hours in official regular primary schools in 2001-2009. It continues previous research (Blass et al. 2010) regarding the funding of teacher work hours. Both papers are based on an ongoing examination by the Ministry of Education of a large sample of schools ("the standard audit").
In the period studied, schools utilized a weekly average of about 53 teacher work hours per class. The figure was stable through the period, in contrast with the widely held view that there was a marked cut in teaching hours. Furthermore, students studied about 33 regular classroom hours in their home room class with Ministry of Education teachers, a bit more than mandated by the Ministry of Education. The number of hours allocated for administrative tasks does not indicate that they were granted for compensation and/or for easing teachers' working conditions. About 85 percent of total work input was given by Ministry of Education teachers, and the share was reduced slightly during the course of the period, parallel to an increase in work input of teaching staff who are not employed by the Ministry - a phenomenon which is worth paying attention to.
Following the implementation in school year 2003/2004 of the Shoshani Report, which recommended expanding the affirmative action policy on behalf of students from weaker backgrounds, there was a significant increase in the number of regular classroom hours as well as in the number of small group teaching hours in the non-Jewish education systems, in parallel with a reduction in the number of those hours in the State religious school system, but the gap in favor of the latter remains significant, primarily due to a large number of work input by teachers who are not employed by the Ministry of Education.
The actual number of classes was higher by 4 percent, on average, than the number of classes required by the allocation rule of up to 40 students per normative class (and on average was 9 percent higher in the State Religious education system). When the number of teacher work hours available per normative class was over 57, the tendency to split classes increased substantially, as it did when the number of students per normative class was over 37.
The number of regular classroom hours in schools in which the long school day program was instituted was considerably lower than required, and indicates problems of enforcement, as well as the preference by schools and parents to allocate more small group teaching hours, or even to split classes, over extending the school day as required.
Since the end of the 1980s, the Ministry of Education has reduced the share of mandatory study hours dedicated to humanities, and increased the share of required hours in math, science, English, and the arts. At the same time, total mandatory hours increased and the freedom of choice expanded. The number and distribution of actual study hours of the various subjects in the period studied are similar across the parts of the education system, with the exception of increased studies in Judaism in State Religious schools at the expense of other subjects. During the course of the period studied the number of study hours for various subjects remained stable. Students from a weaker socio-economic background in the Jewish education system studied more hours, in most subjects, than students from stronger backgrounds (of which there are nearly none in the non-Jewish education system) -due to a policy of affirmative action in allocation of sources -but major differences were not seen in the distribution of teacher work hours according to background. This finding indicates that the priorities regarding subject are similar across all parts of the educational system.
During the entire course of the period studied, the total number of regular classroom hours per class was on average more than required, and that was across all parts of the system and socio-economic backgrounds, especially in core subject studies, nature, and science. Together with stability in the number of average weekly teacher work hours, the finding may hint that there is no teachers' shortage in those subjects.
In light of the large number of teacher work hours per class, the following alternatives may be considered: a slight reduction in the number of hours per class and/or an increase in the number of classroom work hours per teacher - these will allow a reduction in the number of teachers and improved salaries, which may improve teacher quality - and/or a reduction in class size. All these are steps which are likely to increase teaching quality.
Finally, it is necessary to continue to conduct the "standard audit" each year, to expand it to all primary and secondary schools (including the ultra-Orthodox ones), to expand the issues examined (specifically those related to funding sources and uses that are not from the Ministry of Education), to automate the audit in order to retrieve from it all the data collected, and provide the database to researchers and the general public.