Concern for Jewish Education

August 4, 2014 by J-Wire Staff
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The United Jewish Education Board (UJEB) is deeply concerned about recent developments relating to the implementation of the revised Special Religious Instruction (SRI) framework by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) and a number of schools.

UJEB The cessation of SRI at Caulfield South Primary School (CSPS) has resulted in more than 214 UJEB students being denied access to Jewish Education.

CSPS had 214 students enrolled in Jewish SRI in 2014, with 70 per cent of the total school enrolled in Jewish or Christian SRI alone. Parents have told UJEB that they believe the school did not properly canvass parent sentiment.  They feel that the hurried implementation of administrative arrangements just before the end of second-term along with a lack of communication to parents led to a response rate of below 50 per cent in favour of SRI.

Further, parents feel that CSPS’ decision to discontinue SRI was a fait accompli.

“We cannot help but feel,” says Mr Goldfarb, “that the implementation of the framework is being effected disingenuously and amounts to nothing other than a removal of SRI by stealth.”

“The Education and Training Reform Act 2006 provides for religious instructions at government schools, yet the flawed implementation of the recent changes has meant that many hundreds of children are being denied a Jewish education,” UJEB president Yossi Goldfarb said today.

Until the end of Term II this year, UJEB, as DEECD’s accredited provider of Jewish SRI, was teaching approximately 1,300 students across 37 government schools.

“The implementation of the new SRI framework,” he said, “has caused great consternation amongst our parents who feel that the implementation has been procedurally unfair and not taken into account the needs, wishes or views of the Jewish community.”

In other developments, Brighton Primary School is understood to be only offering Christian SRI to its school community.

“On the face of it, Brighton’s decision seems blatantly discriminatory to Jewish students as well as to students from other non-Christian denominations,” said Mr Goldfarb

“UJEB, as the Jewish community’s voice on this issue is, to put it mildly, alarmed by the latest developments.  In the broadest sense we believe that the SRI and JSN programs contribute to the cultural diversity that is the absolute strength of Victoria. “

“Notwithstanding the apparent procedural unfairness, we also understand that the new framework may also contravene federal and state legislation that protect cultural diversity and protects citizens from discrimination, such as the Racial Discrimination Act (Cth) 1975 and the Multicultural Victoria Act 2011.”

UJEB has made representations to the State Government on the matter and has requested an urgent meeting with the Minister for Education.  Minister Dixon is yet to respond to the request.”

“I call on the Government to listen to the Jewish community’s views on the importance of this matter.  Whilst the local member, David Southwick MP, is receptive to our concerns, we would like the same opportunity other SRI providers have had to put our position to the Minister.  We believe there is a way forward that doesn’t involve ‘throwing the baby out with the bath-water.’”

UJEB is convening a special meeting with parents of children undertaking Jewish SRI in Government schools on Tuesday evening, 5 August. 


2 Responses to “Concern for Jewish Education”
  1. Religions already have facilities to instruct children in the religious tenets of their faith. There are churches, mosques and temples all over Melbourne and in many regional cities. Why should religious groups feel they have a right to use government schools as extensions of their existing facilities?

    A better solution to this controversy is this: have the Government develop a proper curriculum on Ethics and Religious Cultures and have it delivered to all children, together, by professionally trained teachers.

    Religious instruction should happen in religious facilities. Education about ethics and religions should happen in schools.

    • I agree, Meredith. SRI is such bad policy for so many reasons. It divides children up at government schools (which were intended to be inclusive) along religious lines. It marginalises children whose parents belong to minority faiths or no faith. The valuable curriculum time of children not opted in is interrupted and suspended each week while SRI is in progress. There must be a qualified teacher present to supervise SRI sessions, and another one to supervise children not opted in (for schools with SRI in three religions that’s four qualified teachers and none of them teaching curriculum – what a waste).
      The decisions being made at CSPS and other schools will not deprive any child of a Jewish education – that 30 mins per week could easily be spent after school or on weekends at local houses of worship and activities for children run by them.

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