Jewish students studying 521.
(photo credit: Reuters)
Recognition of an alternative test taken by haredi women as a bagrut
matriculation exam will help them enter the workforce and Israeli institutes of
higher education, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar (Likud) said on
According to the decision announced by Sa’ar on Tuesday, the
English section of Szold Institute’s test will count for the same as three units
of English classes in the non-haredi schools and the test’s general history and
history of the Land of Israel sections will count toward two general history
Average math and language scores will also count as equal to
math and Hebrew credits on the bagrut exam. The students who take the Szold
test, who number some 4,500 annually according to Education Ministry figures,
will still need to take supplementary courses before enrolling in an Israeli
According to a statement released by the Education
Ministry, the plan will “create an opening for the acquisition of continued
education or professional training and will remove barriers from the workforce”
for haredi women.
The decision will apply retroactively to every female
graduate in the past ten years.
“In the Israeli society, we can either
choose between baseless conflict in a culture war or efforts to build a shared
life,” Sa’ar said, when asked on Thursday what led to the decision.
said the decision will not lower educational or testing standards, and referred
to it as “simply a solution that is outside of the box.”
said that he had initially hoped to take steps that would make the Szold test
equal in content and weight to the bagrut exam, but that he realized that it is
impossible because of ideological issues in the haredi community, and because of
the community’s desire to differentiate itself from the secular
“The question is whether or not the secular society worsens this
differentiation by not recognizing the test.”
When asked why the haredi
education system as a whole is not forced to take the same bagrut exam as the
secular society, he said such a solution would be doomed to fail, and that “the
time has come to find solutions that will help them integrate into the
Critics on Wednesday bashed the ministry’s
“Are we the same country and do we have the same rules for
everyone? This is at best a mistake and at worst a fraud,” said Prof. Dan
Ben-David, the executive director of the Taub Center for Social Policy
“Why are they even in this situation to begin with? Why are they
looking for all types of ways to maneuver in order to launder their education?
Basically they want the same degrees without the same education,” Ben-David
The professor added that it should be Israel’s goal to have one
single matriculation exam for all students.
Shahar Ilan, the vice
president of research and information for Hiddush, an organization for the
promotion of religious tolerance, said on Wednesday he was disappointed by the
“They will only receive three units of English, three units
of mathematics? We’re talking about women, many of whom will go on to be
accountants or work on computers,” he said.
Ilan said that while the
decision will help many haredi women enter the workforce more easily, it is
insufficient in that it leaves them in need of taking a supplementary “mechina”
exam before entering university.
“We’re in favor of finding a
matriculation exam that respects their beliefs,” he said, but added that the
Szold exam was formed in order to prevent haredi women from receiving the
education and work preparation they need, and the decision made by the Education
Ministry will now put an official stamp of approval on that system.
on Thursday, an Education Ministry spokeswoman denied a report that Sa’ar has
decided to cut units from the bagrut exam, saying that he has merely appointed a
committee to examine ways to trim the content of the exam.