Education Ministry cuts schools' civics budget for focus on Jewish studies
Civics classes focus on issues pertaining to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and often provoke class-wide debate.
The Education Ministry has cut most of its budget for the intensive civics classes for 11th and 12th grades, and the regular civics classes for 10th grade, and will invest the sum in the teaching of Jewish studies.
The budget cut was carried out on the order of Zvi Zameret, chair of the ministry's Pedagogic Secretariat, who was appointed to the post early this year by Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar.
In most cases, civics is taught in 9th grade and then in the 11th and 12th grades as part of matriculation requirements. Most students take two credits of civics in their high school careers. However, in recent years the Education Ministry has expanded the program and civics are taught also in some 10th grade classes, and the subject is offered for five credits in some of the schools that selected this option.
Funding for the program is taken from the budget of the ministry's Kremnitzer-Shenhar Unit, which is responsible for the advancement of civics and Jewish studies in the education system.
The Education Ministry refused to provide precise details on the extent of the cuts, but Haaretz has learned that only a third of the 60 schools which met the criteria for the funding will receive it. This is contrary to previous years in which funding for civics classes was significantly higher.
The implication of the cuts will be that in many schools principals who rely on the funding to bolster civics programs will now be forced to shut down the program. "We have reached an absurd situation in which students and teachers want to focus on the subject but the Education Ministry is preventing them," a veteran civics teacher said.
Haaretz has learned that the budget cut has allowed greater allocations of funds for Jewish studies. Support for this area of studies is one of Sa'ar's declared goals.
The teacher said that "we have nothing against Jewish studies, but bolstering them should not come at the expense of civics."
The decision about the cuts was relayed to schools only days ago, and has stirred significant opposition among teachers and principals. "What is more important than being a good citizen and knowing the realities in a more serious way? The decision signals a blatant message that the subject of civics is not important, and this is an obvious contradiction to earlier years," one school principal said over the weekend.
"It is not possible to sweep under the carpet the rifts in Israeli society," a teacher of civics in northern Israel said. "The Education Ministry's solution is to just cease funding for these subjects."
Civics classes offered to 10th graders concentrate on issues that pertain to the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. "In our class we talk about social differences, the tension between personal rights and equality, and also about Arabs and Druze," says a teacher in the north. "We discuss their rights but also ways in which they are incorporated into broader society. These are matters of utmost importance which are hardly taught under any other program. My pupils say that suddenly they understand the reality that surrounds them."
A teacher in the south said that "there are raucous discussions in class, but they are genuine because they touch on issues that are among the most painful in society. This is how I was taught education should be. The Education Ministry decision to cut the support says that the subject of civics is too risky for the pupils, that there should be no challenge to accepted views."