Core studies proposal for yeshivas falls short, NGO says

Plan requires less than an hour a day dedicated to teaching secular subjects

Hartman High School students take their matriculation exams in mathematics (: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Hartman High School students take their matriculation exams in mathematics (: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

The Finance Ministry’s proposal to cut state funding to ultra-Orthodox schools that do not teach core curriculum subjects won’t be enough to truly integrate the Haredi population into the job market, an NGO that promotes separation of synagogue and state said Thursday.

The ministry proposal, revealed in full on Wednesday, would slash by half the funding granted to religious schools that do not teach core subjects such as mathematics and English, while increasing funding to those that embrace at least some of the state-mandated curriculum. 

In order to receive government funds, schools must teach at least 55 percent of the core subjects, which include English, mathematics, science and Hebrew.

But according to Hiddush, to qualify for the funding schools would only have to integrate 4-6 hours a week of core curriculum, an hour or less a day, making the requirements practically “meaningless.”

In addition, the core requirements do not include subjects such as art, music and physical education, leaving the ultra-Orthodox schools free to continue to neglect those subjects.

In a letter to the ministers of Finance and Education, Hiddush director Rabbi Uri Regev said that the Education Ministry must establish true guidelines for a core curriculum and deny state funding to schools that do not teach 100 percent of it.

If the ultra-Orthodox do not enter the workforce, the burden of paying taxes and doing military service will fall on only 35 percent of Israel’s population, Deputy Finance Minister Mickey Levy said on Wednesday. “Unless they are given core studies, a little mathematics and some computer science, they will never be integrated into the labor market,” he said.

On Tuesday, Education Minister Shai Peron (Yesh Atid), who has advocated for sweeping changes in Israel’s educational system, said that as things currently stand, Israeli schools are “not relevant for the 21st century.”

Children in school read less and think less, while some teachers are knowingly teaching information that isn’t always relevant, Piron said. Among other proposed changes, the Education Ministry has announced a plan to greatly reduce the numerous matriculation exams required for high school graduation.

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