High Court: Ultra-Orthodox do not have to learn core curriculum

Law provides an exemption from the study of the core curriculum to ultra-Orthodox high schools grades nine through 12.

September 17, 2014 22:24
2 minute read.
Haredim protest in Mea She’arim

Haredim take part in a protest in Mea She’arim against the municipality opening a nearby road on Shabbat.. (photo credit: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER)

The High Court of Justice voted seven to two on Wednesday to uphold the constitutionality of a law permitting certain haredi schools to opt out of teaching core studies as long as they simultaneously took a hit in public funding.

The law provides an exemption from the study of the core curriculum to ultra-Orthodox high schools grades nine through 12, called “small yeshivas” in Hebrew.

According to the law these institutions are to be exempt from teaching general studies, though they are expected to receive funding of only 60 percent compared to those in which students learn the general curriculum.

Former education minister Amnon Rubinstein had filed the petition in 2010 to strike down the law, arguing that it ruined the haredi community’s equal opportunity to compete in the workplace by depriving them of basic skills.

Supreme Court President Asher D. Grunis, Deputy President Miriam Naor and justices Elyakim Rubinstein, Esther Hayut, Neal Hendel, Uzi Vogelman and Isaac Amit all voted to uphold the law, while Edna Arbel and Salim Joubran voted to strike it down.

“The petition was filed without sufficient factual basis. The petitioners’ main argument is that the exemption from the core curriculum in small yeshivot in grades nine through 12 is unconstitutional. Along with this, the petitioners have not presented before the court the program of the Education Ministry regarding grades 10-12. Therefore it is impossible to determine, that without the study of the core program (which probably does not exist) the constitutional rights of the ultra-Orthodox students are violated, such as the right to human dignity, freedom of occupation, the chances of integration into society and more,” wrote Grunis.

In contrast, Arbel, who was in the minority asserted in her decision that the right to receive a full education was protected by the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty.

“Education is the ‘heart and soul’ of Israeli society, and it appears clear that the right to education is perceived by individuals as a substantive right, the most important, which is derived from the values of human respect in Israel,” she said in her decision.

According to Arbel, the basic protection of this right includes the entirety of a student’s compulsory education and the core curriculum that was established within this framework.

Prof. Aviad Hacohen, dean of Sha’arei Mishpat Academic Center, who represented the ultra-Orthodox defendants in the case, praised the decision taken by the court in a statement made to the media.

“We are pleased that the court accepted our position and that the core curriculum, which we see as a blessing in itself, should be studied by choice and desire and not by force of law,” he said. “In the ultra-Orthodox society in recent years there has been a welcome change and many of its sons and daughters turn, after studying many years in yeshivot and seminaries, to academic studies. The attempt to force upon them a core curriculum could stop this welcome trend and bring about the opposite effect.”

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