Israeli Education Ministry Seeks To Impose Secular Curriculum in Chareidi Schools

YERUSHALAYIM -

The Ministries of Education and Finance are planning to allocate some 150 million shekels in a long-term effort to promulgate secular studies in the chareidi school system and make far-reaching changes in the way the chareidi educatonal system operates, Yisrael Hayom reported in an expose.

The program would involve the hiring and training of thousands of new teachers, the creation of new textbooks, standardized state testing, and financial incentives for those schools that choose to cooperate in an effort to change the material taught in chareidi schools.

On the other hand, chareidi schools that refuse to surrender their traditional independence will face steep budget cuts from the already minimized budgets that they receive today. A chareidi school that enters the ministry’s system would lose control of the hiring and firing of the school’s staff as well as the content being taught in the school. In essence, Gedolei Yisrael, who until today have decided what should be taught to the children of their followers, will not have a say in the running of the schools, chadarim and yeshivos.

In order to implement the plan, a new department for the chareidi sector would be created in the Education Ministry to oversee hiring, training, administration and enforcement of the curriculum to be dictated by Israeli officialdom. The hiring regime spans five years, during which time 6,000 teachers are to be hired by the state to teach secular studies in the chareidi system.

The plan envisions three phases. In the first phase, to begin in May, 40 supervisors and 25 inspectors will be hired, while an additional 30 administration positions will be added.

The Education Ministry claimed in a recent statement that “most of those who teach secular studies in the chareidi schools today are unqualified.”

In the first months of their tenure, Education Minister Shai Piron and Finance Minister Yair Lapid (both from Yesh Atid) tried to slash the budgets of any school that did not belong to a state system, with the stated goal of wresting control of the hundreds of chareidi schools from Rabbinic leadership. However, that plan was halted last July after legal sources said the government cannot implement the cut to students in the mandatory education years before they offer an alternative of a “state-chareidi” education stream to service these students.

After the decision was delayed, Piron went to work setting up the framework of the new stream, and his office worked to get schools to sign up for the beginning of the current school year. That effort didn’t work, but now Piron says that 18 chareidi schools have so far agreed to join the ministry’s new chareidi stream. He did not name the schools.

Rabbi Avraham Yosef Leizerson, Chairman of Chinuch Atzmai, denounced the plan to wreck the integrity and independence of the chareidi school system, which was established over 60 years ago and continues to be directed by Gedolei Yisrael.

Rabbi Leizerson said he was, however, not surprised by the move, since Piron has taken every opportunity in the last year and more to declare his intentions to secularize the chareidi curriculum.

But he reiterated his pledge that those responsible for carrying out the directives of the Gedolim will do their utmost to prevent Piron from harming the Torah education of our children.