Israeli Education Ministry to Limit Inspections of Schools Affiliated With ultra-Orthodox Parties

Document obtained by Haaretz shows that only 7% of such schools are to be inspected, compared to 37% of other ultra-Orthodox schools

Students at a Shas-affiliated schoool in Petah Tikva.
Tomer Appelbaum

The Education Ministry is planning on reducing its inspection of elementary schools belonging to networks affiliated with ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, while many other ultra-Orthodox schools remain subject to strict supervision, according to information obtained by Haaretz.

Last year the ministry said it would conduct comprehensive inspections of 37 percent of 20 ultra-Orthodox schools in the category known as “recognized unofficial” schools that do not belong to any of the official school systems.

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But at the same time, according to a document obtained by Haaretz, only seven percent of the approximately 250 schools identified with Shas, and a similar number of schools affiliated with Degel Hatorah (the non-Hasidic part of United Torah Judaism), are to be inspected.

“Instead of separating education from politics, the inspection will lead to the closing of schools and will push everyone into the political networks,” an educator familiar with the issue told Haaretz. “Schools that fight tooth and nail not to enter networks not directly run by the parties find themselves struggling to survive,” he said.

The types of schools selected for inspection also shows the gaps between schools associated with political parties and other ultra-Orthodox schools. For example, in the Shas network, only girls’ schools where the core curriculum is taught fully and on a high level are to be inspected, along with one coed school. Inspection of Degel Hatorah schools will include 11 girls’ schools and five coed schools, the latter intended for non-religious and non-ultra-Orthodox children. No inspections will take place in boys-only Degel Hatorah schools, which teach only part of the core curriculum.

Most of the schools in the “recognized unofficial” category are ultra-Orthodox. The rest are Arab schools, Christian schools and specialized Jewish schools. Shas and Degel Hatorah schools constitute 85 percent of the ultra-Orthodox schools and receive the same funding as official schools receive. They are therefore obligated to teach the full core curriculum.

The other recognized unofficial schools receive only partial funding from the ministry, and thus they are required to teach only part of the core curriculum. Officially, partial funding stands at 75 percent, and these schools only have to teach 75 percent of the core curriculum. But in fact, students in these schools receive only 40 percent of the funding received by students in official schools where the core curriculum is taught.

The Education Ministry began inspecting all Israeli schools in 2016. Schools are informed of an upcoming inspection, which take place every five years. Part of the inspection involves checking whether the number of hours devoted to the core curriculum meets with the required number set by the ministry. The monitors also check teachers’ accreditation, parent co-payments and the number of children actually attending the school, as compared to the number reported to the ministry.

Teachers’ unions initially opposed inspection and instructed principals not to cooperate, but in 2018 an understanding was reached regarding the frequency and manner of inspection.

Last year the ministry announced that it would include ultra-Orthodox recognized unofficial schools in its inspection regime. The schools at first said they would not cooperate, but understandings were later reached, and the major networks of these schools now cooperate with the inspection. At the beginning of the current school year the ministry informed the schools that do not belong to these networks that they, too, would be inspected, and that any failure to cooperate would result in a withdrawal of funding and licensing.

The Education Ministry responded that it “inspects all educational institutions including those that are recognized and unofficial.”