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Ultra-orthodox (haredi) Jewish schools have regularly although not invariably been subject to criticism in inspection reports since at least the 1980s. Criticism focuses on the quality of secular education provided in these schools. It is argued that this education is insufficient to allow pupils to function effectively in modern society. This article analyses haredi schools in the context of the haredi communities that they serve. It shows that whilst these communities are exclusive in their nature and seek to be removed from the mainstream of society they also value education to a degree that is far higher than that to be found elsewhere. Education within haredi schools is largely religious and centres on the reading and interpretation of Jewish religious texts in their original languages. This article argues that such an education, although it does not give pupils much that might be regarded as basic information in other types of school, does give the pupils a high level of general, transferable, intellectual skills. Given this, the adverse reports that the schools receive may be difficult to defend both in the context of the general values of a country that considers itself both liberal and religiously pluralistic and in the light of the particular obligations that the United Kingdom has under the European Convention on Human Rights.
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