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Ministry of Education policy on the introduction of WI-FI in Schools

 

Typical classroom in school

On the issue of exposure to non-ionizing radiation the Ministry of Education supports the policy of the Ministry of Health and the TNUDA Center to promote the adoption of the precautionary principle. Accordingly, the exposure of students to this radiation should be reduced if and when possible, while striking a balance between protecting the children's health and using advanced technologies.

 

The Ministry of Education, which publishes guidelines and procedures in CEO Circulars  on various subjects, has formulated and published its opinion on the subject of Wi-Fi in one of these circulars.

 

 

Ministry of Education CEO Circular dated 8.7.2013

The latest circular on the subject "Introduction of Communications Equipment and end-user-devices at schools – Health and Safety Considerations " ,3.6-11, (Hebrew), dealing with Internet access at schools, was published on 8.7.2013. It came into effect on 27.8.2013 and superseded previous circulars on this subject.  In this circular the Ministry of Education stipulated that if necessary (as detailed in the circular) a wireless network could be installed, subject to the specific conditions detailed below.

 

Principal guidelines outlined in the circular:

The circular is based on recommendations formulated in a document drawn up by an inter-ministerial team consisting of representatives of the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Environmental Protection, and the Ministry of Health.  The purpose of the guidelines, as detailed in the circular, is to reduce and minimize as much as possible, the exposure of students and teaching staff to non-ionizing radiation resulting from the use of communications equipment, end-user-devices or other appliances.  Moreover, adherence to the guidelines and imparting them to all who attend the school will contribute to achieving a balance between the requirements of developing technologies and the protection of the health of students and staff.

 

Guidelines regarding radiation from Wi-Fi and W-LAN systems and end-user-devices used by staff and students:

The circular stipulates that in educational institutions preference should be given to installing a wired network that will not create safety hazards resulting from its installation and use.  Where the installation of a wired network only is problematic, a wireless network may be installed, subject to the following restrictions:

  • The age-group for which such a network is installed will be from Grade I upwards.  Such networks may not be installed for younger age-groups.
  • In each classroom an access point for wired connection will also be installed for the use of the teacher, who will use this access point exclusively as long as there is no need to operate the wireless network

Preference will be given to teaching through computer applications that do not require using the wireless network, when the teaching goals and pedagogical requirements in class allow for the use of alternatives such as those detailed below:

  • The Internet is used exclusively by the teacher
  • Use of books/'offline' versions
  • Use of programs that can be downloaded on computers – e.g. word processors, electronic spreadsheets, presentations, photographs and video films
  • Exercising topics such as document management and basic skills for using the computer, unrelated to the mode of connection to the Internet
  • Opening documents that can be downloaded (subject to copyright restrictions), such as short films, sound documents and pictures.

​In addition:

  • Within the school grounds the wireless connection must be switched off in the end-user-devices that contain it (e.g. cordless and mobile phones, tablets, portable computers, etc.) when not in use during educational activities.
  • Each room, corridor or classroom in the school must be equipped with at least one wireless router, and not less than one router for every 150 sq m not separated by walls.

Pedagogical guidelines for operating a wireless network in schools:

For grades 1-3: the number of hours and days permitted for using the wireless network are restricted. 

For grades 1-2: 1 hour/day and no more than 3 days/week (Total: 3 hours/week)

For grade 3: up to 2 hours/day and no more than 4 days/week (Total 8 hours/week)

 

General guidelines:

  • In every school where communications equipment and end-user-devices have been installed, radiation measurements (RF and ELF) must be made by an authorized person before and after installation, to ensure that the radiation levels are in accordance with the requirement of the Ministry of Environmental Protection.  These measurements should be made when the equipment is in operation throughout the school,
  • Each school must apply an age-adapted program to impart information on electromagnetic and radiofrequency radiation, to expand knowledge on this subject.
  • The implementation, follow-up and supervision of the radiation measurements are the responsibility of the local municipal authority in collaboration with the Environmental Unit at the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

Supreme Court petition on the subject of Wi-Fi at schools

Illustration of portable computers and mobile phones

In August 2012 the Supreme Court was petitioned by leaders of the National Parents' Association, the Forum for Cellular Sanity, and others, against the Minister of Education, the Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Health, and the Minister of Environmental Protection.  The petitioners demanded that the Ministry of Education be forbidden to install or operate wireless Internet networks at schools.

 

In April 2015 the Supreme Court turned down the petition (Supreme Court Petition 6269/12 – National Parents' Association vs the Minister of Education (Hebrew)).  The court stated that it had found no reason to interfere with the Ministry of Education's decision regarding the use of wireless networks in schools, which is clearly an issue for professional expertise, and that it could not declare that the policy outlined in the Directorial Circular of 2013 was unreasonable to an extent justifying intervention of the court,

 

In August 2015 the Supreme Court dismissed the petitioners' request for a further hearing before an extended bench of judges - 3367/15 (Hebrew).

 

For further details see section on: Supreme Court petition on use of Wi-Fi in schools.

 
 

References

 

4.1.16