Petition: Ministry Not Pushing Core Curriculum

The Education Ministry employs only two inspectors to ensure that hundreds of ultra-Orthodox schools teach the core curriculum, the ministry told the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) in response to its petition to the High Court of Justice last week.

IRAC petitioned the court due to the ministry's failure to implement previous court rulings on the core program.

The ministry was supposed to introduce such a curriculum at high schools in the school year beginning in three months. However, the ministry's response makes it clear that it has not completed the curriculum and has no intention of allocating funds to teach it.

The ministry's response indicates that it is persisting with its policy, which began during former education minister Limor Livnat's term, of evading the High Court's rulings and failing to supervise their implementation.

The petition is the latest attempt to pressure the ministry into devising and enforcing a core curriculum that would apply to all educational streams in the system, as required by law.

The petition refers to elementary education, in which the core curriculum has been taught, at least officially, for several years, and to high school education.

The High Court had given the ministry an extension to implement the core curriculum and link it to the schools' budget by September 1.

On this date the ministry is required to stop funding ultra-Orthodox schools that fail to teach the core curriculum. Some 200,000 pupils go to Haredi schools.

"The Education Ministry has been dragging its feet for years in enforcing the core curriculum and other obligations of the recognized but unofficial education," the petition says. "Even after a three-year extension to enforce the law, the ministry failed to do so. Now, three months before the beginning of the school year, it is clear that the ministry did not carry out the High Court's ruling as it had promised."

The ministry said in its response that the overwhelming majority of Haredi schools teach the core curriculum. "All the schools under my supervision - some 110 schools - carry out the curriculum 100 percent," writes an inspector of ultra-Orthodox girls schools.

However, it turned out that the ministry has allocated only two inspectors for all the ultra-Orthodox schools and has no indication on how frequently they supervise these schools.

Moreover, privately-owned religious and Haredi schools, which receive 55 percent of their funding from the Education Ministry, are not supervised at all.

IRAC's petition says that if the figures provided by the ministry about the core curriculum are based merely on the schools' statements without being checked by the ministry, they should be treated with great circumspection.

"If there are only two inspectors for the recognized unofficial education, then these figures cannot be verified," the petition says.

The High Court of Justice ruled two and a half years ago that the ministry must complete the core curriculum for high schools, implement it at all high schools and condition the schools' state funding on teaching the curriculum by the next school year.

The ministry said it would submit its response in court.