Independent Education System (Israel)

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The Independent Education System of Israel (Hebrew: החינוך העצמאי‎ - which is translated "independent education" and could be transliterated as Khinukh Atsmai or Chinuch Atzmai) is an alternate school system run by and serving the needs of the Haredi (Orthodox Judaism) community of Israel. It was established in 1953 by a decision of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah (Council of Torah Sages of Agudath Yisrael in Israel) and implemented through the State Education law. It was initially led by Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin and is run by an umbrella center that operates numerous schools throughout the country.

The diverse nature of Israel’s society is accommodated within the framework of the Israeli education systems. Different sectors of the population attend different schools. Although, parents are comforted by the fact that their children’s school may more or less reflect their basic worldview, this separation results in very little contact among the various segments of Israeli society. Schools are divided into five groups: State schools (mamlachti), attended by the majority of the pupils, State religious schools (mamlachti dati), which emphasize Jewish studies, tradition and observance. Independent religious schools (Chinuch Atzmai) which focus almost entirely on Talmud Torah and offer very little in terms of secular subjects; Private schools which reflect the philosophies of specific groups of parents (Democratic Schools) or are based on a curriculum of a foreign country (e.g. The American School). Lastly, Arab schools, with instruction in Arabic and a focus on Arab history, religions and culture.

There are approximately 80,000 students currently enrolled in Chinuch Atzmai schools, which include Beis Yaakov schools for girls, Talmud Torah, Cheder and Yeshiva Ketana for boys. There is a strong emphasis on Jewish studies in these programs.

The schools are partially supported by the State; however, the Ministry of Education is not responsible for the hiring and firing of teachers or for the registration of pupils. Schools in the Chinuch Atzmai system are allocated 55% of the budget that regular state schools receive and are required to teach 55% of the Ministry of Education's curriculum. Chinuch Atzmai's funding has traditionally been supplemented by donations from outside of Israel, particularly the United States. Rabbi Aharon Kotler, one of the movement's founders, was extremely instrumental in fundraising for the organization. Due to sharp cuts in state funding over recent years, the movement has had to redouble its efforts in order to keep schools from closing.

The center was a main focus of the controversial Court ruling against the Beit Yaakov school in Immanuel in summer 2010, when it was fined for not complying with the court's ruling.[1]

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