Three Belzer Hassidim received their law degrees this week from the haredi campus of Kiryat Ono College (August 23, 2018). .
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Ensuring that all haredi children have access to a state haredi school and providing core curriculum study classes outside of school hours were just two of the policy recommendations made for strengthening the haredi education system at a conference of the Israel Democracy Institute on Thursday.
The conference was designed to discuss and debate the needs of the haredi sector as the community grows rapidly and at the same time undergoes changes.
The haredi education system is seen as one of the most critical realms in which to bring about greater integration among the community into Israeli society and particularly the workforce, since core curriculum studies are frequently taught at a poor and minimal level, especially for boys.
This lack of a basic education creates serious obstacles for those who wish to obtain employment in the future, especially professional and well-paid jobs.
Currently, only 51% of haredi men and 73% of haredi women work, compared to 88% of non-haredi Jewish men and 82% of non-haredi Jewish women.
Figures presented at the conference from an IDI poll of the haredi sector broke down the haredi community into four sub-sectors; conservative, classic, haredi with modern aspects, and modern haredi.
And the study found that even among the “modern haredi” sector, only 21% of parents send their children to a school where pupils take the high school diploma exams, and only 29% of the same sector thought that core curriculum subjects should be taught for a substantial amount of time during the school day.
However, some 43% of “modern haredim” and 53% of “haredim with modern aspects” would send their children to after-school core curriculum studies, along with 37% of classic haredim and 19% of conservative haredim.
Dr. Lotem Pri Hazan, head of the Center for Jewish Education at Haifa University, said that the level of demand for core curriculum studies is much greater than the supply, referring to the small number of schools that teach these subjects and the limited quality of teachers available.
Pri Hazan proposed that softer, incentive-based solutions should be found for encouraging parents to provide their children with frameworks where core curriculum studies are taught, as a way of preventing a battle with the haredi leadership and those controlling the education issue in the sector.
In particular, an informal framework for core curriculum education outside of school would be of benefit and boost the number of haredi children getting a basic education, she said.
Michal Zernokovsky, chairwoman of an NGO for advancing haredi women and author of a large study on the haredi education system this year, said however that more direct measures should be taken.
She noted that although a state haredi education system was established by the last government that teaches core curriculum subjects and has higher standards of teachers, infrastructure and education, there are only some 6,400 pupils enrolled in just 46 institutions that are part of this framework.
Zernokovsky said that it is very hard for schools to transfer from the established haredi networks to the state haredi system, and that it is difficult for interested parents to establish new schools within the network if it has not been formally established in law.
She said that it was critical that state haredi schools be established in every major haredi city and neighborhood to allow parents the choice to enroll there, thus circumventing the efforts of those with vested interests within the established haredi school networks to block such a revolution.
Zernokovsky added that the state haredi system must be formally established in law to ensure that local municipal authorities are required to grant access to such schools.
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