State-Haredi Education and Haredi Yeshiva High Schools – Position Papers
Main State-Haredi Education and Haredi Yeshiva High Schools – Position Papers
State-Haredi Education and Haredi Yeshiva High Schools – Position Papers
Essential Data, Barriers, Solutions, Recommendations and the “Belz Plan”
Eliezer Hayun, Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research
The State-Haredi educational framework (Mamach) and the Haredi yeshiva high schools are at the focus of the position papers published by Eliezer Hayun.
The first paper, presented at a September 2021 Knesset debate, surveys the Mamach framework and the context for its establishment, and offers possible solutions and recommendations for addressing the impediments to its expansion.
The second position paper, published in April 2022, was written in the context of the plan signed by the Ministry of Education with the educational institutions of the Belz hasidic sect. The paper explores the position of the Mamach compared to the new plan.
Position Paper – Publication of the Ministry of Education’s ‘Belz plan’
Background – the Belz plan
- In March 2022, the Ministry of Education published a policy circular, outlining the plan signed with the Belz hassidic sect. Per the plan, the Belz talmud torah schools are to transition from the status of ‘exempt’ to a special status, whereby the ‘depth’ of core studies will be commensurate with the extent of budgeting. The Belz cheder students will be obligated to study and be tested in three core subjects – English, mathematics and Hebrew – and student achievements will be tested using Ministry of Education measurement and evaluation tools.
- The plan was disclosed in the Haredi press and aroused a great deal of response.
Position Criticizing the Mamach Framework (Compared to the Belz Plan)
- The arrangement with Belz offers an alternative plan to the Mamach.
- The main advantage of the plan is the solution it provides at the ‘large numbers’ level. The program is widely supported by Haredim and rabbinical leaders due to its few core subjects and primarily because it leaves the educational institutions with Haredi autonomy. In contrast to the Mamach, aimed at a narrow population, the Belz program may well include many institutions from the Haredi mainstream and may direct a large portion of the Haredi population toward basic core studies in the future.
Mamach as a Solution to the Target Population
- The Belz plan is the beginning of a welcome change, but not only does it not address values important to the state, it even misses out on the opportunity for the modern-Haredim who see utmost importance in this approach. Furthermore, there is concern that the undesirable reality present in the huge Haredi educational networks, in which full core studies are not taught despite the obligation to do so – will transpire in the institutions included in the Belz plan as well.
- The Mamach is an expanding institution, challenging the educational reality among the Haredi mainstream, and is of great Israeli and intra-Haredi importance: it represents an alternative and gives visiblity to the important ideological aspect of an ‘a priori approach’ to integrating full core studies in Haredi schools, alongside internalizing modern pedagogical values, internalizing civic values and forming Israeli solidarity.
- The Mamach provides a clear solution addressing the needs of the modern job market of the 21st century. With all the important considerations of the Belz plan, it is plain to see that the dynamics of the technological-modern market and its challenges require a unique ‘entry point’, much deeper and broader than what could be achieved with this plan. The Mamach, if its activity is in fact to be expanded, is likely to provide as solution to such a need.
- Much criticism has been leveled against the Mamach; it seems, however, that just like any newly developing innovative institution, this framework, too, is being received with a degree of suspicion. The Mamach operates within a conservative-Haredi society; it is possible, therefore, that by ‘tiptoeing’ cautiously, mistakes are sometimes made. It can be assumed that as the Mamach continues to grow, it will learn from its mistakes and improve its functioning. Such expansion is also relevant for the budgetary variable: the early years of the pilot enjoyed excess budgeting, but as the institutions establish themselves, budgetary differentials are reduced and the budgetary variance from the ‘regular’ state educational institutions is thus eliminated.
Position paper – state-Haredi education
This position paper, which was presented at the Knesset debate in September 2021, reviews the state-Haredi education system (Mamach) and the background to its establishment and offers possible solutions and recommendations to deal with the barriers to its development.
The state-Haredi education system (Mamach) was established in the 2013-14 school year, on the basis of Government Resolution 151 on the matter of reinforcing basic studies and the official-state education system.
According to data from the Knesset’s Research and Information Center (Weissblau, 2020):
- The status of the Mamach is not established in law as a separate educational framework. It operates without having been regulated in a published policy circular of the Ministry of Education nor any other ministry guidelines that determine a curriculum of study in its institutions.
- The Mamach institutions are under full supervision of the Haredi district and are funded as official educational institutions. Pedagogical employees are employed by the Ministry of Education, and core studies are taught in full in its institutions.
- Per court ruling, the local authorities are not obligated to open state-Haredi schools, even when there is such a demand by parents (in contrast to state and state-religious institutions).
- The curriculum in the Mamach is similar to that in the Haredi educational networks – 100% core studies, stressing fulfilling requirements – while maintaining expanded religious studies in parallel.
- As of 2020-21, the Mamach has a total of 12,666 students: 4,139 in 164 pre-schools, and 8,527 students in about 60 schools, constituting 5.2% of all Haredi pre-school students, and 3.3% of all elementary school students.
- More than half the school children in Mamach study in Jerusalem and central Israel districts.
- Over the last six years, the overall budget of the Mamach grew from about 77 million NIS to 133 million NIS, but the per-student budget shrank (in 2014-15 – 22,185 NIS/student; in 2018-19 – 21,084 NIS), as did the per-class budget (in 2014-15 – 63 weekly hours; in 2018-19 – 2.31).
- The average allotment per student in the Mamach grew in comparison to the other educational frameworks (about 21,000 NIS per student in Mamach, compared to 18,500 NIS in the state-religious framework and 16,000 NIS in the state system).
- On the other hand, the budget per class in Mamach is lower in comparison to the equivalent budget in the state-religious and the state systems, and similar to the budget in the muchshar – unofficial-but-recognized – institutions (394,000 and 385,000 NIS in Mamach and muchshar, in contrast to 495,000 and 458,000 NIS in the state-religious and state systems). The low per-class budget for the Mamach stems primarily from size – the Mamachs aim to be innovative trailblazers, so that their class size is often fewer than 20 students. This has a negative effect on per-class budget and creates higher indirect costs for the school, even though it is not fully populated.
- A Mamach institution is an expanding one that is challenging the educational reality of the Haredi mainstream. The institution, in setting its sights on imparting full, equal education to all children in Israel ‘a priori’, is forced to face significant social barriers that are fighting the expansion of that trend (see: Kikar Shabbat, Feb. 19, 2020).
Based on the studies and interviews conducted by the Jerusalem Institute on the topic –
In order for the Mamach framework to expand, it must be set down in law and transitioned from optional to obligatory execution by the local authorities.
The Mamachs are ‘expanding’ schools; at the first stage, before acquiring community confidence, a class with more than 20 students is difficult to open, as is managing the operations – maintenance and administrative functions – on a full-time basis. Budgeting for a 4-6 year school-establishment period is recommended for each school, with class sizes of 10-20 students.
Establishing a coordination-management body for the Mamachs
The emphasis here is on establishment. Such a body should be engaging in guidance for navigating the inner workings of the Ministry of Education and the local authorities, and further in specially adapted teacher training and development of new content in cases where the content taught in the state-religious framemwork or the heder framework do not meet the particular needs of a state-Haredi school.
Assistance in establishing the network of Mamach institutions
There is value in organizing an institutional network, on condition that it will operate more than five schools. High school institutions will be owned by the network, while for the elementary schools, the network will operate to provide support and guidance.
Haredi yeshiva high schools
- The Haredi yeshiva high schools are equivalent to the general high schools, and are geared toward teens coming from the Haredi school system who have completed eight years of elementary school study.
- The track is four years long, with an average student age of 14-18.
- The curriculum includes a high level of religious studies, and general studies on varying levels.
- Students are required to pass matriculation exams as conducted in all Israeli high schools.
- Due to the introduction of general studies into the curriculum, these institutions and their founders have been encountering fierce resistence by the Haredi rabbinical leadership and the political-municipal leadership.
- Most students who graduate from the Haredi yeshiva high schools go on to attend Haredi yeshiva gvoha – post-high school age yeshivas – where they engage in religious study only.
- Based on a survey conducted by the Jerusalem Institute in 2018 among parents in the Haredi sector, 17% of the respondents support sending children to Haredi yeshiva high schools (whether a priori or after the fact), and 42% of the respondents are considering sending their children to such institutions. The implication of the survey results is that there is an actual demand of an additional 3,000 students interested in a Haredi yeshiva high school framework.
- There are 23 Haredi yeshiva high schools in Israel today, with 2,100 students in attendance. These students constitute about 5% of high-school students in the Haredi sector (39,072 students). The remaining 95% study in yeshiva ktana – high-school age yeshivas – where they engage in religious study only. A single age-group in these institutions comprises about 10,000 students.
- The Haredi yeshiva high schools, like the Mamachs, are challenging the classical Haredi framework. Consequently, the number of students is declining and the classes, which must have a minimum of 32 students each – are often not filling up. This situation prevents them from obtaining the full budget that has been allocated to them.
Haredi yeshiva high schools should be fully budgeted for their first five years, even when classes do not meet Ministry of Education standard size.
Entering Yeshiva high school budgets into the budget basis
to overcome the uncertainty of continued budgeting.
Ministry of Education assistance
in establishing the institutions in conjunction with the local authorities.
Establishing a teacher training program
Since most graduates of the Haredi school system have not encountered general studies, the Haredi yeshiva high schools are forced to employ non-Haredi teachers – with a detrimental effect on the ability to convince parents who are considering sending their children to such an institution. A budgeted specialized teacher training program should be established for Haredi school system graduates who ‘speak the Haredi language’ and are capable of unmediated communication with the students.