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Nearly 2.2 Million Israeli Children Start School


JERUSALEM, Israel -- It's a momentous day in Israel with 2,191,004 students starting the new school year, 2,900 of them new immigrants.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett met with the Teachers Association Monday evening to avert the strike that in past years has often prevented the school year from starting on schedule.

The teachers appeared encouraged by Bennett's receptive ear regarding classroom needs.

"Naftali Bennett showed great interest in understanding the problems and the urgent need for a solution and promised to use all of their power to find a solution within the coming days," the teachers union said in a statement.

Bennett shared some of the ministry's new initiatives for the 2015-2016 school year, including overcrowded classrooms.

"I want to say today to parents who send their children to kindergarten and school: From now on your children in first grade have smaller classes, your children in kindergarten have a second assistant," Bennett said.

There are also new initiatives for students with special needs.

"If you are a parent of special needs children, your children will have new tools to help them cope with challenges," he said.

And there's a renewed push with mathematics courses.

"And if you are a parent of high-school students, we increased the study of mathematics in order to give a larger set of keys to their future success," Bennett said. "The education system is prepared in your honor, and I wish everyone a successful school year."

At Sunday's cabinet meeting, Netanyahu told ministers the size of the classroom or the number of teacher's aides aren't the main issues, but rather "education for excellence, especially in the sciences and mathematics."

The prime minister said he supported Bennett's new initiatives in math and science.
"We have set this as a basic goal for the State of Israel," Netanyahu explained. "We want to continue the start-up nation. The base for this is, first of all, mathematics and the sciences. We will also increase the number of children studying for five points in mathematics. This has far-reaching consequences for the economy, technology and security."

The future, Netanyahu said, belongs to countries that can innovate.

"Innovation is built on two values: The first, of course, is excellence and the second is domestic solidarity. We summarize this in two words: Zionism and excellence."
"Regarding Zionism and our national and Jewish values – our educational system is committed to these, as I think we all are," he said. "Regarding excellence, mathematics is the queen of sciences…In addition to what we are doing here to increase the number of those excelling at mathematics, a national need of the highest order as far as I am concerned, we will also enact a measure that is of great symbolic importance and is also a sign for the future."

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