Israel’s Haredi Schools Adapt to Core Curriculum Requirements

In a recent interview, Israel’s Education Minister said that the nation’s Haredi (Orthodox) schools have taken the government’s heed to integrate a core curriculum, but pressure is mounting on elementary schools that are resisting, as the Minister threatens to withdraw funding for those schools.

At least 20 Haredi schools have begun teaching the core curriculum subjects of English, Math and Hebrew since the government took office, according to Education Minister Shai Piron. Additionally, students are being prepared for the state high school matriculation exam in four Yeshiva high schools that have been opened this year.

But Piron couldn’t resist threatening two Haredi elementary schools that were hesitating to integrate the curriculum by declaring to defund them. These changes comes as the large majority of Ashkenazi Haredi elementary schools teach very little of the state core curriculum, while almost no core curriculum studies at all are taught at Haredi high schools for boys.

Core curriculum in Math, English and Hebrew are taught as the Shas-run Ma’ayan Hahinuch Hatorani insists. However, the Education Ministry is yet to be convinced as it remains skeptical that the full syllabus is in fact taught.

Shai announced he would seek to defund Haredi schools that do not teach the core curriculum shortly after taking office earlier this year, although because of a legal problem with defunding the schools without a suitable alternative, these reforms have been put on hold. To make the schools more cooperative, the Tziburi Haredi state education system has been created by the Education Ministry. The new educational framework provides Haredi elementary schools with 100 percent of state funding in return for the school teaching 100 percent of the state core curriculum for Math, English and Hebrew. As a result, more than 20 Haredi elementary schools have decided to change from their previous status in which they received between 55-75% funding in return for teaching a similar level of the state syllabus, which in practice was not fulfilled, to the new Tziburi Haredi framework, according to Shai and the Ministry.

According to Jeremy Sharon of the Jerusalem Post, a ministry official said that the amount of hours taught and the level of the education would be exactly the same as in non-Haredi schools, although some textbooks and educational materials could be adapted to ensure that they are “appropriate” for the Haredi community. In addition, regarding studies taught to the pupils outside of the core curriculum topics, the ministry does not get involved.

The official also said that the enrollment of the new schools to the Tziburi Haredi system directly with the management of the schools in question and not in conjunction with the haredi political or rabbinic leadership was coordinated by the ministry. Additionally, after several public announcements made by Shai declaring the new system available for haredi schools, the schools themselves had approached the ministry to adopt the new system.