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Education for All: The Israeli Ultra-Orthodox Schools

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More than two decades ago, the world made a promise to children everywhere by signing the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which includes education as a basic human right, which is universal and inalienable ‐ everyone, regardless of religion, ethnicity or economic status, is entitled to it (UNICEF, 2008). Yet this global promise was challenged by the hidden tradeoff between children’s right to education in terms of development, and the rights of minorities to preserve their culture via education. The tradeoff is even more dominant in multicultural countries competing in global economy. This article aims to explore the tradeoff between competitiveness and multiculturalism, using the right to education of the Israeli ultra-Orthodox students as an interesting case study. On the one hand, ultra-Orthodox students indeed have a right to education, moreover, the state is obligated to its provision and finance; yet on the other hand, the quality of the education in ultra-Orthodox schools remains vague. Thus, multiculturalism might be achieved as these children indeed are enrolled in ultra-Orthodox schools financed by the state; yet, competitiveness might be hindered, as the quality of their education is questionable. The research question is to what extent, if at all, is the equality of educational opportunity achieved in a multicultural nation-state. The method of analysis is two way ANOVA. The results reveal that the extent of equality of educational opportunity (EEO) is low for students enrolled in ultra-Orthodox schools compared to their counterparts. Furthermore, the extent of equality of educational opportunity is declining along the schooling level (from grade 2 to grade 5). In light of the incremental trend of students enrolled in ultra-Orthodox schools, the low extent of EEO might hinder the acceleration of state competitiveness. This article has implications for other countries with diverse populations that strive to achieve both the sustainability of multiculturalism and in the same time, the acceleration of state competitiveness.
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Keywords: education policy; equality of educational opportunity; multiculturalism; state competitiveness; the right to education; ultra-Orthodox education

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2016

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  • Educational Practice and Theory is a bi-annual, independent, refereed journal which, since its launch in 1978, has become an important independent forum for original ideas in education. It publishes innovative and original research in the area. Its focus is both applied and theoretical and it seeks articles from a diverse range of themes and countries.
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