Shas schools 311.
(photo credit:Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Education Ministry is considering whether to cut the budgets of haredi
schools that do not have their students sit for standardized elementary and
middle school tests.
The ministry’s position was expressed in its
response to a petition submitted to the High Court of Justice by the Israel
Religious Action Center, or IRAC, the legal arm of the Reform Movement in
The subjects covered by the tests, known as MEITZAV, are Science,
Hebrew, Mathematics and English. Children take the exams in grades two, five and
The petition, filed in 2007, demanded that all state-funded
schools teach the core curriculum subjects and that an efficient system of
inspection be established to oversee the process.
IRAC discovered in 2007
that there were only two Education Ministry inspectors for the entire haredi
school system, and that these schools were not registering their pupils for the
The ministry agreed to significantly increase inspection
and to begin the process of getting the ultra-Orthodox schools to carry out the
In 2010, after little progress was made on these issues, IRAC
submitted another petition asking for a High Court injunctions against the
Education Ministry to implement its promises.
In response, the ministry
wrote this month that if the haredi school systems do not agree to have their
pupils take the tests by next year, the education minister will consider
reducing the state support for their budgets until they reconsider.
ministry added that it was still in dialogue with the haredi school frameworks
and that the MEITZAV exams for haredi schools might only be partial and not the
full set of tests.
There are a number of haredi school frameworks that
receive state funds. The “Independent” framework, which has mainly Ashkenazi
pupils, and the Shasrun Maayan Hachinuch Hatorani framework, which has mainly
Sephardi pupils, teach the core curriculum in full and receive the same level of
funding as other state-funded schools.
Then there are haredi schools
known as “Unofficial schools,” which receive 75 percent of normal state funding
and are required to teach 75% of the core curriculum.
Finally there are
the “Exempt Institutions” which receive 55% funding from the state and are
required to teach 55% of core curriculum subjects.
In practice, the
Unofficial schools and Exempt Institutions that the large majority of Ashkenazi
haredi children attend teach barely any core subjects, preferring to teach
religious studies instead.
The Maayan Hachinuch Hatorani and the
Independent framework do teach the core curriculum through all elementary school
According to Rabbi Yosef Politi, national inspector of the Maayan
Hachinuch Hatorani framework, approximately 130 out of its 150 schools now carry
out the MEITZAV tests, which are altered somewhat to ensure that the stylistic
content is appropriate for haredi children.
Statistics for male pupils in
the Independent, Unofficial and Exempt Institutions schools taking the MEITZAV
tests are not readily available but are presumed to be very low.
the Independent framework do, however, take the tests since the haredi world
does not insist on the same level of religious studies for girls as it does for
Attorney Ricky Shapira of IRAC, who has worked on the case, said
she was “happy to hear that after so many years the Ministry of Education is
beginning to go in the right direction and will reduce the budgets of schools
not using the MEITZAV tests,” and said that she hoped the ministry would carry
out this policy.
She added, however, that it is the “Ministry of
Education’s role to inspect the ultra-Orthodox educational institutes and not to
negotiate with them.
“The tests are carried out in all state educational
institutions and nobody thinks to enter into dialogue with them about fulfilling
their legal obligations,” Shapira said.
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