A sharp jump has brought to 50,000 the number of pupils in Israeli schools who are not being taught either English or mathematics, Maariv reported on Wednesday.
According to Education Ministry statistics obtained by the Hebrew daily Maariv, over the past decade there has been a 40 percent increase in the number of children attending ultra-Orthodox state-sponsored schools that are exempt from teaching the standard syllabus. The figures showed that while initially the schools were exclusively in Haredi localities, now they are to be found across the country including in the heart of major cities. In many cases the students, from grades one to eight, enjoy better classroom conditions than pupils in regular schools with fewer students in each class.
Although the “exempt” schools are supposed to teach at least 75% of the ministry’s obligatory syllabus in order to qualify for state funding, the report said that in fact this isn’t done. The ultra-Orthodox schools prefer to focus solely on religious studies and often refuse to teach some of the basic material, such as math and English, that pupils need later in life to become part of the workforce.
In 2004 and 2008 the High Court ruled that schools that don’t teach the state syllabus should not receive funding but, according to the report, the funds continue to flow as a result of political wrangling to form government coalitions.