School year starts with controversial curriculum changes

“It is very important to teach our historical rights as a sovereign state, as articulate by the law,” Peretz said.

September 1, 2019 07:21
2 minute read.
Arab and Jewish students

Arab and Jewish high school students on the first day of school. (photo credit: COURTESY AMAL MATTAR)

The nation’s pupils will start feeling the effects immediately of the appointment of Bayit Yehudi leader and Yamina Knesset candidate Rafi Peretz as education minister with the start of school on Sunday.

The most significant change that Peretz already succeeded in making to the curriculum is that the Jewish Nation-State Law will be taught in Gr. 11 to all sectors of the population. It will also be on matriculation examinations, so pupils will not be able to bypass the information taught about the law.

Students will be taught the wording of the law and debate what it means to be a Jewish state. They will read endorsements of the bill and articles against it written by the Arab High Monitoring Committee and the Israel Democracy Institute.

“It is very important to teach our historical rights as a sovereign state, as articulated by the law,” Peretz said.

But opponents of the law said it is especially insensitive to require Arab and Druze students to learn about it.

Hadash-Ta’al MK and Joint List Knesset candidate Yousef Jabareen called on principals and parents to resist teaching about the law.

“We reject this attempt to infiltrate Peretz’s racist ideology into the curriculum,” Jabareen said.

Peretz has also initiated a plan to expand classes related to “Israeli Jewish Culture” in the public-school system. According to the plan, first- and second-grade students will be exposed to more texts pertaining to Jewish traditions and Judaism in general.

Elementary school principals have autonomy to a certain extent in what is taught in their schools, and there have been principals who have said they will not take on the curriculum changes Peretz instituted. But the high school principals have an obligation to ensure their pupils are prepared for the matriculation tests.

“The minister of education is taking the system responsible for educating our children and inching it ever closer towards a system for extreme brainwashing,” a spokesman for the Democratic Union said. “The said education minister, who added the racist Nation-State Law into the high school curriculum, prefers not to address the overcrowding of classrooms, improving teacher pay or strengthening the system – only more and more religious influence.”

But Rabbi Amihai Eliyahu, who heads the Association of Community Rabbis, welcomed Peretz’s decisions, saying that only “a small group of hot-headed people are working to hurt the State of Israel and the Jewish people, and we will not let that happen.”

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