The overall decline in Israel in the number of high school students matriculating with mathematics and science majors has been felt even more keenly in the national religious sector. Testimonies from teachers point to a wider spectrum of unique factors adding to the negative trend in the religious education system. They stress that the student-body of religious schools is typically smaller and therefore they are unable to offer a variety of learning tracks adhering to diverse talents of students. They also face a cultural struggle within their community between the need to focus on core subjects and skills necessary for the 21st Century, and their desire for more traditional religious studies and engagement in community service.It should be noted the religious education in Israel is almost completely separate from the secular state system, with its own curriculum, teacher training and schools. Students in national religious schools are expected to study an extra 10-15 hours of religious studies per week, to routinely engage in community service and to actively participate in religious youth movements, and therefore have less time to dedicate to challenging subjects such as mathematics and the sciences. A recent government policy allowing students to major in up to four areas (including mathematics and English), pushes many students to have to choose between Bible, Talmud and the Sciences.
In order to tackle this issue, ‘Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avoda’ (NTVA) is proposing a campaign to raise awareness of this problem within the religious community in Israel, and to catalyze a sense of urgency to reverse the negative trajectory. NTVA is a non-profit organization founded in 1978 with the goal of assimilating religious Zionist principles with modern secular life. Recently they ran a successful campaign against separating boys and girls in elementary schools, and published a preliminary report on the state of science education in the religious stream.
The proposed program will convene a steering committee comprised of 15 influential professionals and leaders from within the religious sector. The group will include representatives from the religious education system administration, principals, teachers, school networks, academics and well-known Rabbis, politicians and intellectuals such as Dr. Moshe Weinstock, Rabbi Etan Izman from the Zvia education network, and Aharon Carish from the Amit network. Over a series of meetings, the group will prepare a deep analysis of the current situation and trends, and then launch a public advocacy campaign to raise awareness of the importance of science studies in the national religious sector.
The campaign will target both stakeholders and the general religious public, publishing a research booklet and at least 15 articles in 5 media outlets of the religious public over the course of one year, holding meetings with key figures in the religious sector and presenting at relevant conferences.
* The text above shows the grant as approved by the Foundation’s Board of Directors / Grant 128