Haredi students at the Jerusalem College of Technology.
(photo credit: JERUSALEM COLLEGE OF TECHNOLOGY)
Forty-six percent of ultra-Orthodox students would be willing to study for their master’s degree in a non-gender separated environment, according to a study published Tuesday by the National Union of Israel Students with the support of the Israel Democracy Institute.
The research was conducted via Internet surveys of 500 students already studying for their bachelor’s degrees between the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018. The students surveyed are members of all haredi streams – hassidic, Lithuanian and Sephardi.
The study likewise found that nearly half of male haredi students would be open to learning from a female instructor if she were dressed in a “respectful manner.”
Of those who agreed they would study with a woman, 28.6% said they would definitely be open to learning with a woman, while 17.9% said they would be willing if there was no other choice. Another 38.1% said they would definitely not study with a woman lecturer and 15.3% chose not to answer this question.
The strongest opposition to learning from a woman lecturer came from members of the hassidic stream, the survey found.
“I think one of the conclusions that might be drawn here is that maybe a large portion of the objection to learning under women comes from the [haredi] leadership and not the students themselves,” said Eitan Regev, an economist and a research fellow at Israel Democracy Institute who helped conduct the study.
He told The Jerusalem Post that it is also important to take into account, that while 50% of haredim are willing to study in a mixed-gender environment – and he said this was a surprisingly high percentage – the other 50% are not.
“So, what about the other 50%?” Regev asked. “If you stop separating by gender, the other 50% of students would cease to exist.”
He also explained that just because the students said they are open to studying in these environments, “that does not mean it will be okay for them to pursue that if their rabbi or leadership forbids it.”
Additional findings show that the majority (58.6%) of students polled would be interested in pursuing a master’s degree. One-third (32.3%) were still undecided, and only 9.1% of students said they would definitely not want to pursue such a degree.
However, nearly half (47.9%) of students said the biggest obstacle to pursuing a master’s degree is a financial stress – a result that was higher among married and divorced students.
“We must as a society and system address the issue of [haredim] dropping out, the cultural difficulties and the educational gap,” said Shlomi Yehiav, the head of the National Union.
Regev added, “The survey’s findings can help improve the effectiveness of policies we put in place to increase haredi integration in academia.”