Bill anchoring state haredi school system to be advanced

The majority of boys in the state haredi school system do not study subjects that increase entry of ultra-Orthodox men into the workforce.

Haredi young men. (photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)
Haredi young men.
(photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)

Chairwoman of the Knesset Education Committee MK Sharren Haskel (New Hope) announced on Monday that a law anchoring the state ultra-Orthodox school system, which teaches core curriculum subjects, will be advanced during the current Knesset.

The legislation, which she said would be a government bill, would be developed in a new sub-committee dealing exclusively with the state’s ultra-Orthodox school network.

Passage of such legislation is crucial to the further development of the fledgling school system which is severely hampered both by the fact that it is not an official state school network and at the same time faces severe opposition by the ultra-Orthodox political parties.

Most elementary-aged ultra-Orthodox boys study in school networks which do not teach core curriculum subjects such as math, science, computers or English, while the overwhelming majority of ultra-Orthodox boys do not study these subjects at high-school age frameworks.

This creates severe difficulties for ultra-Orthodox men when they seek to obtain higher education qualifications and when trying to enter the workforce, which analysts, including the Bank of Israel, have said will create severe difficulties for the Israeli economy in coming decades due to the rapidly growing size of the haredi community.

 The Education Committee discusses education in Haredi schools. (credit: NOAM MOSKOVITZ/KNESSET) The Education Committee discusses education in Haredi schools. (credit: NOAM MOSKOVITZ/KNESSET)

Haskel said during a committee hearing on Monday that the legislation would be prepared together with the ultra-Orthodox Department of the Education Ministry, the Finance Ministry and haredi community leaders on the issue “to find the right framework to allow the ultra-Orthodox to fulfil their potential in whatever manner they should choose.”

She said the current government “has the opportunity to make the necessary changes which even ultra-Orthodox representatives are interested in but are unable to do.”

The state ultra-Orthodox school system was established during the 2013-15 government, but not through legislation or even administrative orders from the Education Ministry, creating significant difficulties in establishing and funding such schools.

In addition, local municipal authorities must give their authorization for such schools to be opened due to their lack of national and legislative standing, which has meant that such schools have not been opened in ultra-Orthodox stronghold cities such as Bnei Brak because the rabbinic and political leadership of the community is opposed to such schools, partly on ideological grounds and partly because they could draw pupils, and funding, away from the traditional ultra-Orthodox school networks.

The committee received official statistics from the Education Ministry revealing that there are currently 490,000 pupils in all ultra-Orthodox schools in some 7,000 different institutions.

Of those, 257,000 are in elementary school systems, with just 8,496 in the state ultra-Orthodox system.

Education Ministry,