Not all parents are applauding, at least in private, as the Knesset on Monday night the eve of 19 Tammuz passed the amended bill pushed by chareidi parties.
As a result, chareidi schools are no longer compelled to teach mathematics, science and English, as gedolei hador have come out strongly against any “government interference” in the education of chareidi children.
However, many parents secretly blessed the law voted in by the previous Knesset amid the awareness it would provide their children with tools to earn a living after leaving beis medrash.
The law that was eliminated compelled schools to provide 10-11 hours of math, science and English weekly. However, the Minister of Education is given the authority to decide if s/he will make learning these subjects is contingent on receiving state funding so it is possible that Minister Naftali Bennett may compel some secular subjects in the chareidi curriculum.
The vote on the bill in its first reading passed in a 37 to 33 vote. When presenting the bill for a vote, Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush explained “It is a question of 65 years verses 18 months of compelling the subjects by Yesh Atid. We have always made do without funding and with more difficult conditions and received a promise to maintain the status quo since the establishment of the state”.
Porush added that despite claims by opponents to the amendment that one million children will be impacted, in fact, it will only impact 41,000, those registered to ‘mosdos patur’ and these parents do not wish the schools teaching anything contrary to the position of gedolei hador. Porush added there are only about 420,000 students in chareidi educations so the figure one million is simply absurd.
What really happened with the vote?
Former Education Minister (Yesh Atid) Shai Piron spearheaded the change to compel chareidi children to learn secular subjects and passed it into law. However, in fact, little changed with the chareidi amendment since in the past, the law compelled schools to teach the secular subjects but now, following the vote, the authority has been placed in the hands of the Minister of Education. That means today, Naftali Bennett has the authority to stipulate state funding for a school is still contingent on teaching these subjects.
Why oppose teaching math and English?
Talmidim in Chinuch Atzmai schools do learn basic math (adding, subtracting, multiplication and division) and some, even English. (We are addressing boys. Girls often learn more secular subjects than boys). However, the so-called ‘mosdos patur’ that receive less than 50% of funding from the state but do enjoy funding, were pressured to teach the subjects.
Rabbonim explain that it is less a matter of teaching more math than it is permitting state interference in chareidi education, citing the Chazon Ish, ZT”L, the Brisker ZT”L and Rav Sonnenfeld ZT”L were among those speaking out loud and clear against any state involvement in education and the gezeira is still adhered to today.
Noted rav Rabbi Motcha Blau is among the audible voices behind maintaining education in line with the gedolim of the generations, telling Kol Chai Radio on Tuesday 20 Tammuz that parents have the right to send children to the school they wish as the school has a right to teach as it wishes and the rabbonim will never accept state interference on any level.
What are the children learning?
As stated above, children learn basic math and grammar and that is all. Parents are quietly frustrated in many areas, some explaining to Kol Chai that today things are different, and having basic English dialogue skills is not a luxury but a necessity. They add that the chareidim entering the IDF Shachar program have proven their ability to learns advanced math quickly following years of developing their minds by learning Gemara, but the same is not true of English.
Some chareidim interviewed, above the age of 25, explaining it is unquestionably more difficult to learn a language at a later age and it should have been taught to them in school.
However, HaGaon HaRav Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman Shlita and other gedolim in the chassidish camp remain adamant and the curriculum remains unchanged.