Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

25 Teves 5768 - January 3, 2008 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Education Ministry Fined for Deliberately Covering Up the Success of a Chareidi Educational Project

By G. Lazer

A district court fined the Education Ministry NIS 13,500 ($3,500) for violating the Freedom of Information Law by hiding an NIS 1 million study on the results of math achievement tests for first- and second-graders that showed the superiority of a method developed by two chareidi teachers from Bnei Brak.

In her decision the judge noted that Education Ministry officials knowingly committed perjury by claiming that they did not have the test results in their possession.

The study, which was commissioned to find the best teaching method for math, assessed the six methods used at primary schools in Israel. Researchers observed how the material was taught and at the end of the study, achievement tests were administered to the first- and second-grade students who took part.

Afterwards the Education Ministry suppressed the results of the achievement tests which showed that the most successful method was Mishtalem Batevi'im, a method developed by two chareidi teachers from Bnei Brak who published textbooks based on it. Those involved in developing this teaching method knew the true results and demanded that the Education Ministry publish the findings.

Officials claimed after-the-fact that the true aim was not to harm the chareidi-developed method so much as to hide the fact that the method developed by Matach (the Center for Educational Technology), an institution with close ties to the Education Ministry, came in last place.

In any case, the Mishtalem Batevi'im group took the matter to court, and the Education Ministry responded in court by saying that it did not have the results. Meanwhile the matter also reached the Knesset Education Committee. In preparation for the Knesset meeting, Committee Chairman Michael Melchior (Labor) demanded that the ranking Education Ministry officials on hand bring him the test scores, but at first they also told him that they didn't have the scores. Later in the meeting they were compelled to admit they did in fact have the scores, but they said that could not find the study.

MK Melchior grew irate. In a press release he wrote, "The Education Ministry is hiding the scores from the public more carefully than the State of Israel hides its atomic secrets." Melchior lodged harsh criticism against Chief Scientist Prof. Sidney Strauss, who hid the scores from the committee members, and forced Strauss to publicize the results.

Strauss released them about a month ago, but the Education Ministry avoided bringing the scores to public notice. It issued neither a statement from the Ministry Spokesman nor a director-general's circular on the matter. The results were published in an obscure place, so that to this day the teachers and parents have yet to be informed of the scores.

Jerusalem District Court President Judge Moussia Arad decided to fine the Education Ministry for concealing the study results for so long, saying that it only released the study after heavy pressure, and that by concealing it from the public the Ministry denied teachers and parents information on the best way to teach math to their students and children.

MK Rabbi Avrohom Ravitz told Yated Ne'eman that the affair appears to be a case of very severe corruption. "An independent committee of inquiry should be set up immediately to find out who was responsible for hiding the data and what his true motivations were. Was it a case of monetary bribery and bad faith by giving preferential treatment to individuals with close ties to the Education Ministry, or was it simply a case of hatred toward chareidim, which is even graver?"

Rabbi Ravitz notes that the court did not act prudently by imposing a monetary fine on the Education Ministry, since that essentially means transferring funds from one government ministry to another, i.e. a Chelmian act of switching money from one pocket to the other. "The officials who caused the financial damage to the teachers involved were the ones who should have had to bear the punishment, and the matter is cause for a police inquiry."

MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni told Yated Ne'eman, "The affair is very serious and ranking Education Ministry officials should look into the matter and find out how it happened that the most successful teaching method, which was developed by chareidi teachers from Bnei Brak, was concealed from the public in such a methodical and deliberate way." Rabbi Gafni noted that he raised the matter before the Education Committee and has yet to receive the ministry's reply. He suggested that the ministry officials responsible for the failure pay the fine themselves, saying it is unreasonable for the public to pay for deeds perpetrated by a number of officials who did not want to see chareidi teachers honored, and in so doing harmed the entire public by maintaining outdated teaching methods that failed to prove themselves in the field.


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