Orthodox Jewish school risks losing recognition over gaps in curriculum

Orthodox Jewish school risks losing recognition over gaps in curriculum
The Benoth Jerusalem girls' school in Antwerp is facing a fifth inspection in eight years. Credit: Google Street View

An Orthodox Jewish girls' school in Antwerp is facing a new inspection which could see it risk losing official recognition over renewed concerns that the school was deviating from the regular curriculum.

The Benoth Jerusalem school for girls will be the subject to a fifth inspection in eight years, the school's principal was notified Het Nieuwsblad reports.

The latest inspection, scheduled for November, is the latest in a string of checks carried out at the school since 2012 concerning reports that the school did not address sexual education or evolution theory, and banned pop music.

Regional education officials will oversee lessons over the course of one week to ensure they follow the imposed curriculum, the outlet reports.

"We are not comfortable with it," Lieven Viaene of the Flemish Education Inspectorate told the outlet. "We fear that Benoth Jerusalem is deviating from the curriculum again."

A screening in 2012 first saw officials raise concerns over subjects that were "systematically avoided" or simply not included in the study program of the school, located in central Antwerp.

"The curriculum's objectives about reproduction and evolution are not offered," the report stated, according to De Standaard. "The origin of the universe or the history of the earth's crust are systematically avoided."

While a follow-up inspection in 2015 showed the school had eliminated the gaps in its study program, a report by a prospective teacher in 2018 alerted authorities that the school had gone rogue again.

The teacher produced a document provided by the school which listed sexual education and evolution theory as topics that should not be addressed during lessons, according to Het Nieuwsblad. The document also mentioned that pop music and "vulgar dances" were not allowed.

The teacher's reports led to two inspections, with the latest taking place in June of this year, which did not prove satisfactory for the inspectorate.

If the latest inspection finds that the school is still not complying with regular study programs, it could lead to it being stripped of official recognition.

But while losing recognition would see the school lose access to subsidies, it could continue to operate without being subject to checks.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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