Education Minister Naftali Bennett has decided to allow for more gender segregation in academia following pressure from the ultra-Orthodox community in support of the move.
The Council for Higher Education, which he heads, has launched a new policy that allows graduate students to study in gender-segregated programs and permits placing classrooms in ultra-Orthodox communities, far from their universities, Channel 13 reported Thursday.
“Because of the pressure of the ultra-Orthodox in his camp, Bennett is excluding female students and lecturers and discriminating against them,” a senior official from the council told the news channel.
The move follows the failure of a plan to better integrate ultra-Orthodox students into institutions of higher learning.
The council had planned to integrate 19,000 ultra-Orthodox students into the system by 2022, and was initially successful, but the plan faltered in the last two years, leading to a backlash from colleges, which saw their enrollment numbers fall.
Tamar Zandberg, head of the left-wing Meretz party, castigated Bennett and his New Right party for the decision.
“The disaster that Bennett has brought upon the Education Ministry is just a preview of what is waiting for us if Smotrich or Feiglin become the next education minister,” Zandberg said, referring to right-wing politicians Bezalel Smotrich and Moshe Feiglin. “It shows us how quickly a liberal democracy can degenerate if we spit on its values,” she added.
Speaking to The Times of Israel Wednesday night, Bennett said he was a “big believer” in joint schools for children where religious and secular students would study side by side. Today, schools are almost always broken down into religious or secular, with different curricula for each.
“There are a bunch of those schools in Modiin, Ra’anana. But ultimately, I believe in parents’ choice. Parents ought to be able to choose where their kids, and what their kids, learn. And it turns out, unfortunately, that there’s a lot of secular parents who want to send their kids to those schools, but there’s not enough religious parents – the religious parents are afraid their kids will become secular, so there’s simply not enough demand for it,” he said.