Study Finds Younger Students Do Not Revere Bible Studies

Elementary school students may like their Bible studies, but only a minority say they believe their classmates do, according to new research on the roots of the problematic attitude of students to Bible studies.

The head of the Bible department at Levinsky Teachers College in Tel Aviv, Dr. Haya Ben-Ayun, who conducted the study, says students responses to the study indicate they "answered according to what they believed they were expected to, but the truth is different."

Earlier studies have shown that students in junior and senior high school have negative attitudes toward their Bible studies. Ben-Ayun's research is the first to examine the attitudes of children in grades 4-6.

The study covered about 450 children in six public, secular Jewish schools. The data shows that the students have a "moderately positive attitude" toward Bible studies. Most of them said the classes were not boring and that it developed their thinking, contributed to general knowledge and was important at a national level.

However, when they were asked whether they liked the subject, almost 40 percent said no. Moreover, almost two-thirds of the children said their classmates did not like their Bible studies.

The study also had the children express their opinion on the subject in an open question, where they had to give a reason for their opinion. Results were mixed.

"This is a totally stupid subject. We don't need it. Whoever made a subject out of this is a dummy," read one response.

The study also shows that only a small number of children believe the language of the Bible is beautiful.

"Bible stories, and not the rich language, are what attracts the students," Ben-Ayun explained. "Here is where the breakdown begins that appears in the higher grades, because the language of the Bible is a significant component in the subject, and one cannot deal with the opinions, ideas and stories without being in control of this language ... You can't achieve comprehension without knowing the language and you have to begin with this in the lower grades."

Ben-Ayun says the Bible is being taught in the wrong way.

"For many years this subject has been dragged along, limping, and the Education Ministry has to change the situation," she said. "If the subject is important, the children have to be given the tools to deal with it, as early as elementary school, for example by having a teacher designated for Bible only. Without these tools, there is no basis for the Education Ministry's declaration that Bible is an important subject."

Two years ago, the Education Ministry announced the establishment of a 40-member national council for Bible teaching, headed by former Supreme Court justice Mishael Cheshin. The ministry also published the council's first recommendations: beginning the school day with a discussion on the Bible, holding contests on various areas of art involving events from the Bible, and holding afternoon parent-teacher-student events about the Bible.

However, Cheshin said the council met only twice, and "the ministry's enthusiasm was very limited. They had lots of plans, but clearly nothing can move forward without resources. The size of the budget shows the true will to change the situation."

Cheshin said the council has since "given up the ghost."

The Education Ministry said Ben-Ayun's study "has not yet reached us. We will be glad to relate to it after it is received and studied."