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In Israel, sex education removed from junior high curriculum

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 3 2013 6:25 p.m. MDT

Orthodox school children walk to school in the Mea Shearim Ultra Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem.

Sebastian Scheiner, Associated Press

All instruction about human reproduction has been removed from the science curriculum of Israel’s “state religious” public junior high schools.

“The Education Ministry has asked textbook publishers to eliminate chapters on human reproduction, pregnancy prevention and sexually transmitted diseases from science textbooks used in state religious junior high schools as well as from their teacher manuals,” the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported Tuesday. “… The ministry requested the changes at the urging of officials in the state religious school system. ‘The ministry capitulated to one of the most extremist factions of the religious public,’ one publishing executive charged. Another said the changes resembled those demanded by ultra-Orthodox schools.”

The British publication The Guardian contextualized how the change will only apply to “state religious” schools, and additionally implied the curriculum change could be connected to the ultra-Orthodox children who are increasingly abandoning the public school system for private schools.

“State education in Israel is divided into religious and secular sectors for Jewish children, with separate schools for Arab children,” Harriet Sherwood reported for The Guardian. “Many ultra-Orthodox Jews send their children to (gender-) segregated private schools, with strict controls on curricula, behavior and dress. Around a quarter of Israeli children attend ultra-Orthodox schools, according to 2010 data — a figure that is steadily rising.”

The Canadian periodical National Post relayed the Israeli Education Ministry’s response to criticism the ministry was effectively kowtowing to ultra-Orthodox influence: “ ‘The religious community has a different world view than the secular community and we accept that,’ said Michal Tzadoki, a spokesman for the Ministry of Education. ‘They asked that this chapter be moved to the high school textbook and we agreed to that.’

“He said sex education would be taught in 10th or 11th grade, rather than in 7th grade when students were not emotionally prepared.”

Email: jaskar@desnews.com

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