Only 40% of ultra-Orthodox High Schools in Israel Teach English and Math

Central Bureau of Statistics survey of 3,300 Israeli elementary, middle and high schools found that only 75% to 85% teach most core subjects, with ultra-Orthodox schools bringing down the numbers.

Only 40% of high schools for ultra-Orthodox teenagers teach English and mathematics, a Central Bureau of Statistics survey reveals.

The survey, commissioned by the Education Ministry, found a sore lack of core subjects in the Haredi schools' curricula.

Ultra-Orthodox school
Daniel Bar-On

The bureau surveyed 3,300 elementary, middle and high schools of every stripe and found that only 75% to 85% teach most core subjects. It is the Haredi schools that dragged the figure down. In the Arab community, by contrast, all schools teach the core subjects.

The "core subjects" include math, Hebrew, English, history, geography, road safety, civics, Israeli heritage, science and technology, and life skills (to help children cope with adult life and become productive members of society). Arab schools also teach Arabic, with Hebrew as a second language.

The survey found that 100% of state high schools, both secular and religious, teach all the core subjects. However, only 20.6% of state religious high schools teach Arabic, which is taught in 68.2% of the regular state high schools.

In contrast, Talmud is taught in 97% of state religious high schools but only 11% of regular state high schools, the Central Bureau of Statistics found.

The Arab schools teach all the core subjects except for Hebrew grammar, which is taught in only 44% of the schools, Hebrew literature (46% ) and Bible (5.2%).

Moving onto the Haredi system, everything changes. For instance, 100% teach Bible. The girls' schools do teach many of the core subjects, and the girls take tests equivalent to the matriculation (bagrut) exams. But yeshiva high schools for boys were exempted from the core subjects in 2008. This week, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation rejected a bill that would have revoked the exemption.

An estimated 20,000 Haredi teens study at the exempt schools. All other Haredi schools are supposed to teach the core subjects, and theoretically, their budgets depend on it. But the Education Ministry doesn't have the staff to inspect the schools and make sure they do teach these subjects at a satisfactory level.

The survey found that in fact, only 41% of Haredi high schools teach math, 39% teach English, 30% teach civics and geography, 41% teach Hebrew literature and 43% teach Hebrew grammar. The requisite conclusion is that while Haredi girls get some form of core education, the boys get almost none because of the legal exemption.