Why Victoria’s Jewish community must act to preserve its world-class school system

August 5, 2021 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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The future of Victoria’s mainstream Jewish schools is threatened by rising school fees, a declining Jewish birth rate and a shift of Jewish students into the government school system, according to a discussion paper published this week by the Victorian Jewish Schools Project.

Alan Schwartz

Rethinking the Future of our Jewish Schools, published by a group of community leaders and educators, seeks to open an urgent conversation within Victoria’s Jewish community about how to maintain a world-class school system that every Jewish child can access.

“Our schools face a triple threat of demography, culture and finances that our whole community needs to understand and address – not in the distant future but today,” says Alan Schwartz, Convenor of the Victorian Jewish Schools Project.

The discussion paper finds that whereas only a quarter of Victoria’s Jewish children attended government schools 15 years ago, on current trends more than half of Jewish primary students and a third of secondary students will attend public schools a decade from now.

Over the next 20 years, the population of Jewish school age children is projected to fall by nearly 2200 students, which will mean fewer students in our schools.

It could also mean losses of fees and grant income to our schools of hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 20 years.

The discussion paper shows the cost of educating a child in Year 12 in a mainstream Jewish school is between $34,000 and $39,000.

“That fee is out of reach for many families, including those with middle incomes. The economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are making the pressures on parents even stronger.”

The Victorian Jewish Schools Project seeks to inform the Jewish community about the gravity of the situation, develop options for change, and bring together schools, community leaders and philanthropists who can guide change when the community agrees that it is both necessary and desirable.

To promote debate within the Jewish community, the discussion paper maps out four options for the mainstream schools, without endorsing one approach over another.

The options are: maintain the status quo; merge four schools into two; create a new, independent Jewish co-educational VCE School; and establish greater collaboration among the schools.

The discussion paper will be updated every year, and public forums held regularly, until the community reaches a consensus about the path forward.

Alan Schwartz said that although Melbourne’s Jewish school system was one of the finest in the world, declining enrolments would threaten its accessibility, quality and viability, with harmful consequences for the community.

“Do we wait for powerful demographic, cultural and financial forces to place intolerable stress on parents and schools alike, or do we act?” he said.

“I and all members of the Victorian Jewish Schools Project believe that working together as a community, we can find the right solution for our children and our grandchildren.”

“If ever there was a time for us to pursue this conversation with open minds, leaving personal feelings and loyalties to one side, that time is now.”

To read the discussion paper and join the conversation, and for more information about the Victorian Jewish Schools Project, go to

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