Israel Votes to Effectively Cancel Core Curriculum for ultra-Orthodox Schools

Knesset members vote 41 to 28 to reverse a requirement that Haredi education offer instruction in basic subjects such as Hebrew, English and mathematics.

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Ultra-Orthodox children sit in front of a teacher as they learn the alphabet at the Shomrei HaHoma Torah School for boys in Jerusalem. Nov. 9, 2010.
File photo: Ultra-Orthodox children at the Shomrei HaHoma Torah School for boys in Jerusalem.Credit: Reuters

Israel's Knesset passed legislation early on Monday to exempt ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) schools from teaching core curriculum subjects such as Hebrew and English language skills, science and mathematics.

By a vote of  41 to 28 lawmakers approved a measure recommended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet by a ministerial committee decision last month, as part of a deal with ultra-Orthodox party, United Torah Judaism, in his ruling coalition.

United Torah Judaism had insisted on reversing legislation passed before the elections last year under centrist party Yesh Atid's sponsorship, requiring Haredi schools to teach core subjects. The law was one of the party's flagship pieces of legislation when it was a coalition partner in the previous government.

The measure is controversial within the religious community where many see a lack of a basic secular education as denying ultra-Orthodox children basic tools for getting ahead and joining the Israeli work force, particularly the country's highly touted high-tech market.

Bennett will determine the necessary scope of study for subjects such as Hebrew language, Bible, history, Jewish heritage, science and physical education in order for ultra-Orthodox schools to receive state funding.