Over 50% of haredi men cited as saying they speak 'little' to 'no' English - study

Ultra-Orthodox education has been an issue in Israel for some time, with religious schools often eschewing traditional subjects of study, such as foreign languages and STEM.

 HAREDIM ON a Mea Shearim street corner during Sukkot.  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
HAREDIM ON a Mea Shearim street corner during Sukkot.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

A new study has found that 53% of male haredi (ultra-Orthodox) respondents rated their English ability as "poor" or "nonexistent."

Some 19% of respondents in the Israel Democracy Institute study said their English was “so-so,” while 25% said they had a solid understanding of English – with 7% describing English as their “native tongue.”

Haredi education has been a subject of conflict in Israel for some time, with some claiming that religious schools eschew traditional academic subjects, such as foreign languages and STEM, the study noted. 

Interestingly, many parents of haredi children have no interest in English studies for their kids, with 69% saying they were “not so interested” (14%) or “not at all interested” (55%) in on-campus English studies, and 57% saying they were “not so interested” (10%) or “not at all interested” (47%) in after-school English study programs.

 ‘AMONG THE some 1.2 million haredim in Israel, there is a large silent majority of 610,000 who are ideologically in between.’ Pictured: Funeral of Rabbi Avraham Erlanger, head of Jerusalem’s Kol Torah Yeshiva, in October. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) ‘AMONG THE some 1.2 million haredim in Israel, there is a large silent majority of 610,000 who are ideologically in between.’ Pictured: Funeral of Rabbi Avraham Erlanger, head of Jerusalem’s Kol Torah Yeshiva, in October. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

In an added twist of irony, twice as many ultra-Orthodox adult males aged 35-44 speak English compared to those aged 18-34 (46% vs 18%-22%), while significantly more haredi men aged 45 or older speak English (57%). The haredi parents apparently speak English much more than their sons do.

The Israeli Democracy Institute data did show, however, that there is also a certain degree of support for English studies among parents of boys not being taught English: 23% are interested in their sons learning English in school, while 36% expressed an interest in after-school English studies in a non-formal educational setting.