Shas schools to take part in state testing again

Education Ministry responds to charges that state had failed to keep its promise to increase supervision of haredi schools.

Shas schools 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Shas schools 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Shas’s Ma’ayan Hinuch Torani educational network will revert to taking part in the Meitzav achievement exams after a three-year hiatus, the Education Ministry informed the High Court of Justice on Monday.
The announcement was part of the ministry’s answer to a petition filed by the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) last year, which charged that the state had failed to keep its promise to increase the supervision of the haredi schools regarding not only the core curriculum – which still applies to recognized but unofficial primary and secondary schools and “exempted” schools – but also other standards, such as the minimum number of visits by school supervisors each year, the number of teaching hours, the schoolbooks in the curriculum, the levels of learning achievement, and so on.
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The exams, set to take place in May, are used to measure growth and efficiency in the country’s schools. They are given to fifth- and eighth-graders once every two years, and test the pupils’ knowledge of math, science, Hebrew and English.
A spokesman for the Education Ministry called the network’s acquiescence to conduct the tests “an achievement,” and noted that the process leading to it had been part of Education Minister Gidon Sa’ar’s general approach of conducting dialogue with the haredi educational systems.
While there are certain demands that cannot be waived, it would be wrong to forcefully impose them, the spokesman said. He added that the ministry hoped a similar understanding would be reached with the Ashkenazi haredi Independent Education Center.
Ma’ayan Hinuch Torani director-general Rabbi Yoav Ben-Tzur explained to The Jerusalem Post that following the understandings recently reached with the Education Ministry – under which his school system would make modifications to the tests’ style, such as using language, texts and expressions suitable to the haredi network – the managers and rabbis of Ma’ayan Hinuch Torani “saw no reason to refrain from the testing.”
It was a disagreement over these matters that had caused his network to cease taking part in the tests, he noted, and added that such tests “could definitely benefit us; they give us a good indication of our level.”
Rabbi Uri Regev, head of the NGO Hiddush – For Religious Freedom and Equality, called the development “a step forward in the effort to bring secular studies into the haredi educational system.” However, he noted that most Ma’ayan Hinuch Torani pupils were actually not from haredi families, and that the Education Ministry’s true test would be to reach such understandings with the Ashkenazi haredi educational system.

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.