Report: A Third of All Students Will Be in Haredi Schools by 2012

Only 50 percent of all Jewish elementary school pupils will be attending state schools by 2012, with one-third of all Jewish pupils studying at ultra-Orthodox schools, according to a Central Bureau of Statistics report.

The report, which forecasts statistical data for the education system in the upcoming years, was recently submitted to the Education Ministry and prompted a number of scheduled meetings set for the next few days to discuss the data.

The bureau's projections are based on figures from the 1990s that indicate an annual drop of approximately 1 percent in the number of pupils attending the secular education system. Most pupils who leave secular education move to the ultra-Orthodox system.

The report projects that from 1992 to 2012, the secular Jewish education system will lose 10 percent of its pupils, with state religious schools registering a 3.7-percent increase in pupils. The ultra-Orthodox school system, meanwhile, will experience a 196-percent leap in the number of pupils. The overall number of Jewish pupils is expected to grow by 18.3 percent by 2012.

In five years, Jewish secular elementary schools will account for 50.9 percent of all Jewish pupils, followed by 30.9 percent at ultra-Orthodox schools and 18.2 percent at state religious schools.

Education in the Arab sector will also register a significant increase in pupils by 2012, with an expected 71 percent leap in attendance rates over the decade. Arab pupils will comprise 27.5 percent of all elementary school pupils by 2012. With the Arab sector adjusted into the country's projected average distribution of pupils, the secular education system will account for only 37 percent of all pupils.

The report also projects an increase in the pupil-to-teacher ratio in the upcoming years, citing cutbacks to teacher training programs. The bureau forecasts that from 2005 to 2012, the number of newly trained teachers will drop by 55 percent. Moreover, most graduates will be hired to work in the Arab and ultra-Orthodox education systems.

The pupil-to-teacher ratio in 2012 will be 11.2:1 in the secular system, 9.5:1 at state religious schools, 10.9:1 at ultra-Orthodox schools, and 12.5:1 in the Arab sector.

Ministry officials told Haaretz they expected recent laws and bills by ultra-Orthodox parties to significantly bolster the sector's education system. These include the Nahari Law, which was passed six weeks ago and requires local authorities to fund ultra-Orthodox and other non-state schools.

The ministry noted another bill promoted by United Torah Judaism that aims at insuring state funding for ultra-Orthodox schools even if they do not teach core secular subjects (i.e. math, English and computers). Currently, these subjects are a prerequisite for such funding.