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Ideology or education?

Op-ed: Israel's education system violates country's international human rights obligations

Israel is not only failing its children in quality of education, it is also violating its international human rights obligations.


It has violated its obligation to educate haredi children, by allowing schools in their sector to exclude the core syllabus, and now, by introducing school trips to Hebron for all schools, it is violating the human rights to freedom of conscience of children whose views or those of their parents are opposed to Israel's settler-occupation of Hebron.


Although not compulsory, these trips are also not truly optional, as they absorb time and budget for extra-curricular activity and, in many cases, will bring peer pressure to bear on parents and children who want to opt out.


Israel’s human rights obligations, especially under the Children’s Convention, commit it to two basic principles. It is these principles which are being violated by the partisan legislation and regulations which have been promulgated.


The first human rights obligation of the State is to provide education which enables all persons to participate effectively in a free society, which is directed to the development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and which facilitates access to scientific and technical knowledge and modern teaching methods.


This is the principle which is violated in the legislation to exempt certain schools from the obligation to teach a core syllabus. The core syllabus includes Bible and heritage studies, language and literature studies, mathematics and science studies and physical education. Without all of these, children are ill equipped to function fully as members of a modern society or economy. The obligation applies to both public and private schooling as the State’s obligation is not to the institution but to the child.


Trips conflict with parents' beliefs

The second principle of the State obligation to provide education is the freedom of parents to give their children an education according to their own beliefs. This freedom applies to education beyond the core syllabus, which parents do not have the right to waive for their children.


It is this freedom which is currently being violated by the minister of education. The trips to Hebron cannot be considered part of a core syllabus and, indeed, the minister admits as much as the trips are optional.


These trips clearly conflict with the beliefs of many parents in the school system. After all, the issue of settler occupation is one of the most deeply controversial issues in Israeli politics.


Furthermore, it can clearly be argued that educating children to accept the idea of settler occupation, although it is contrary to international humanitarian law which prohibits the transfer of civilians of the occupying state to occupied territory, is in itself a violation of the obligation to give children a human rights education.


What is common to the two violations is that political or religious ideology triumphs over the obligation to provide human rights education. The infiltration of this worldview into the educational system is aimed to imbue in future generations the growing disdain for human rights values in Israeli political discourse.


Hence, governmental rejection of international human rights law can no longer be regarded as an incidental offshoot of pragmatic political or defense exigencies, as it has become an ideological banner.



פרסום ראשון: 03.05.12, 13:29
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