The number of schools teaching intensive religious studies curriculums in the national-religious sector has doubled in the past 10 years, research published by the Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah organization reveals.
At the start of academic year there were 56 schools in the national-religious sector teaching a syllabus dedicated to religious studies, according to the group.
Boys and girls are separated in such schools, secular studies are greatly reduced and there is an emphasis on superficial learning by rote instead of encouraging deeper examination of ideas, the study says. Two-thirds of these so-called Talmud Torah schools operate within the state religious school system.
The increase in these types of national-religious schools comes as more and more state religious elementary schools have either turned themselves into Talmud Torah schools, or established themselves as such from the outset, Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah’s report said.
In addition, whereas they used to be primarily located in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, they can now be found across the country.
Eyal Berger, the organization’s policy and research coordinator who conducted the research, said that despite the far-reaching consequences of what he termed “an educational revolution,” the national-religious community has not held a serious debate on the issue.
“In the framework of these developments, elementary schools in the state religious system are breaching the delicate balance they inherited between Torah study and general education, and the need for intellectual curiosity and integration into all aspects of life,” he said.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Berger said that it was always a critical value of the national-religious community to provide its children with a broad general education, alongside a deep knowledge of Torah, because an aspect of the community’s ideology is to be a part of broader society and to help shape it.
But he said that if the trend observed in the past 10 years of a decreased emphasis on general education continues, it could certainly influence the ability of children from sectors of the national-religious community to enter higher education and at a later stage integrate into the workforce.