From the Constitution to the Classroom: Educational Freedom in Antwerp’s Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Schools

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Abstract

This study explores how the constitutional right to educational freedom penetrates to the schools of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish (Haredi) community in Antwerp, which is one of the largest Haredi communities in the world. The findings indicate that the constitutional educational freedom is altered by various legal rules, social norms, and implementing agents that transform it on the way down to the Haredi schools. The complex, illusive operation of the cogwheels of education policy demonstrates that education laws should be shaped with considerable thought, taking into account their long journey across the arenas of education policy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-502
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of School Choice
Volume8
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 3 Jul 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The methodology combines legal analysis with fieldwork, aiming to reveal the interrelationship between the various cogwheels of education policy. The legal analysis examines the role of the constitutional freedom of education in the Flemish education laws4 and in judicial rulings. The analysis is supported by reports of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Flemish Ministry of Education, as well as by academic scholarship. The fieldwork included 23 semistructured interviews with Haredi principals and teachers (two men and six women who work at four different schools), parents (one father and 11 mothers whose children attend eight different schools), and young women who recently graduated from the schools (three women who attended two different schools). The interviews were conducted in Hebrew or in English, according to the preference of the interviewees. In addition, I visited four schools and collected documents. The fieldwork was conducted during Fall 2012.

Funding Information:
According to the School Pact of 1958, nonpublic schools could only receive partial financial support. However, since 2008 both public and free-subsidized schools receive the same financial support (Loobuyck & Franken, 2011). This scheme of funding explains why most of the pupils in Flanders study in free-subsidized schools (Flemish Authorities, Education and Training Policy Area, 2011). The criteria for school funding are based on several characteristics, including, inter alia, the socioeconomic status of the children and the language they speak in the family (Decree on Elementary Education, 1997, Art. 78ff; Codification on Secondary Education, 2010, Art. 242ff). Such criteria benefit Haredi schools, which serve students whose socioeconomic status is low and their mother tongue is not Flemish.

Publisher Copyright:
© , Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

Keywords

  • Belgium
  • Haredi
  • education law
  • educational freedom
  • religion
  • ultra-Orthodox

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

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