Anat Hoffman writes about the work of IRAC to force the Ministry of Education to exercise more supervision over core curriculum studies in ultra-Orthodox schools.


Esther Piron is the proud mother of Shai Piron, our Minister of Education.  Today is the first day of school in Israel and with over two million Israeli pupils returning to class, Esther is interviewed all over Israel’s media to talk about her son’s achievements.  Shai Piron’s Ministry receives 10% of Israel’s GDP to implement Israel’s Law of Public Education, and guarantee that, “Israeli students will be modern thinking individuals with a capacity to thrive in the contemporary world.”

What Esther will not tell you, is that hundreds of thousands of Israeli school pupils are not receiving an education that prepares them for anything like that.
The only way to ensure that all Israeli citizens can take part in a modern, national economy is by making sure that all school students study a core curriculum of subjects that will enable them to pursue higher education and join the workforce. The lack of core curriculum studies is a key factor behind the low representation of the ultra-Orthodox sector in the Israeli workforce and a great obstacle to our economy’s potential growth.

Seven years ago we won a court petition demanding that the Ministry of Education only fund schools that teach the core curriculum. However, the Ministry continued funding the ultra-Orthodox school system, claiming that most of these schools teach the core curriculum. Yet surveys reveal that bible studies is the single core curriculum subject taught in all ultra-Orthodox educational institutions. Most state-funded ultra-Orthodox schools do not teach the subjects that are necessary to succeed in Israel’s job market, such as science, English and math.

Four years ago, IRAC filed another legal petition. This time, our objective was to force the Ministry of Education to exercise more substantial supervision over all core curriculum studies in ultra-Orthodox schools. When we claimed that 4 inspectors overseeing 200,000 ultra-Orthodox pupils can hardly count as supervision, the Ministry of Education told the court that they would increase the number of inspectors to a total of 42 by the end of 2013.  However, as we start this school year, it turns out that only 11 new inspectors have been added. Whereas a public school has one inspector for every 3,000-5,000 pupils, an ultra-Orthodox school has one inspector for every 15,000 pupils. 
This of course means that the Ministry has no idea whether the core curriculum is actually being taught in the schools that receive state funding by declaring that they do.

Moreover, we found there is a dearth of teachers in ultra-Orthodox schools who are trained to teach non-religious subjects and the Ministry admitted that there are no plans to solve this problem. Without qualified teachers, and without adequate supervision, it is clear that most pupils in Israel’s fastest growing educational system will not receive the skills and knowledge that our nation needs.
Join us in writing the Minister of Education, Shai Piron, to demand that all Israeli school that receive state funding teach the core curriculum.

Minister Piron and his mother may not be talking about this, but we are.