Graduating students have few choices besides an exclusive Torah study track

To date, the Haredi elementary school system has been able to offer its graduates few choices for the continuation of their studies except for an exclusive advanced Torah study track. Until now, little effort has been expended on teaching secular subjects such as math, basic reading and English.

As a result, many students who are not scholastically suited for full-time Torah learning end up in a high school setting that does not meet their needs. Studies clearly indicate that students placed in an academic environment that is unsuitable for them suffer from a drastically reduced level of motivation and a negative self-image, two factors that lead to academic underperformance and school dropout. Due to budgetary constraints in the schools, principals have relied heavily on the eighth grade classroom teacher to offer parents options for high school based on the student’s eighth grade performance. As a result, the students have been assessed based on a limited perception of their overall abilities, and the system has lacked professional guidance.

Recently, a new approach to Haredi education has been developed which includes a matriculation track alongside high-level Torah study for appropriate students. Shlavim sees its partnership role in the Haredi education system as an opportunity to implement our research-based ability-driven guidance program, the Kishurim Program.

In each participating school, beginning in sixth grade, the classroom teacher, the principal and the school counselor begin to identify students who have the ability and desire to pursue studies in a track leading to high school matriculation. The school counselor is responsible for working with these students and their parents and gauging their level of interest. Qualified students, about 30 percent of the class, are given supplemental lessons in key academic subjects such as math, English and Hebrew comprehension and writing. This helps boost the students’ academic skills and increase their chances of admission to Haredi matriculation track schools. The school counselor continuously evaluates the students’ needs and the extent to which they are being met as the pupils participate in this program.

The goal of this program is for the student to view himself as a unique, talented individual with distinctive abilities. Once this is achieved, the student’s self-image is reinforced and he is naturally focused and motivated to excel. By allowing students to follow their natural abilities, we are able to improve their education, prevent them from dropping out of school and open up new windows of opportunity for them.