Responding to diversity? An initial investigation into multicultural education in Jewish schools in the United Kingdom
Topics: Jewish Schools, Multiculturalism, Education, Curriculum, Citizenship, Children, Main Topic: Education
Abstract: This investigation into the teaching of multiculturalism in Jewish schools sets out to study the approach of senior management and governors in regard to multicultural education, how this is treated in school prospectuses, and its impact upon, and the views of, children attending Jewish day schools. The report - which represents an initial investigation into the issues, rather than a comprehensive survey of all Jewish day schools - reveals great diversity. Some schools are treating multiculturalism with seriousness and provide models of good practice, while others consider it to be low down on their list of priorities. The report reveals the pressure that state schools are under because of the national curriculum and, following on from this, the unwillingness of some to undertake (as they see it) additional teaching requirements. This is especially relevant given the limited amount of dedicated time that many Jewish schools have for Judaic subjects (which can be as little as two hours a week). The report also reveals general misunderstandings about what the term 'multiculturalism' actually means and, therefore, how it should be taught in the classroom.
Abstract: Contrasting explanations of Jewish survival form the backdrop to this article. For Jonathan Sacks (1994) the crucial factor has been the role played by Jewish education; indeed, he claims that the demographic threat currently facing Anglo‐Jewry is largely the result of the community having neglected the Jewish education of its children over the past 200 years. He advocates reinstating this communal responsibility as the sovereign Jewish value in order to deal with the threat. In my view, the influence that Sacks attributes to education and particularly to Jewish schools is overstated. It stems from a misreading of modern Anglo‐Jewish history and from a failure to take fully into account the ways in which Jewish schools impact on their pupils’ ethnic and religious identity. These considerations apart, I contend that prioritising education will not necessarily strengthen the commitment to Jewish continuity that is the sine qua non of survival.
Topics: Jewish Schools, Citizenship, Jewish Education, Pluralism, Multiculturalism, Main Topic: Education
Abstract: In February 2001 the British government announced its commitment to increase the number of schools run by the churches and other religious groups where there was 'clear local demand from parents and the community'. The decision met with approval in some quarters, but was condemned elsewhere on the grounds that such schools, in a multicultural society, are inevitably divisive. In the course of exploring the response of Jewish primary schools in England to cultural pluralism, this article sheds light on the charge of divisiveness. It describes a study that offers little support to the critics, for it highlights the wide variation in attitudes and practices that characterised the schools with regard to the multicultural dimension of citizenship education.