The Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities has criticised a proposed halt on establishing new independent religious schools and leisure centres by the Swedish Ministry of Education.
You can read the full statement below:
The Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities finds that the Ministry’s considerations and conclusions are based on good intentions and seek to ensure high-quality and equal school activities based on democratic values, science and proven experience.
We fully support the intention to ensure that schools adhere to these principles and it is in accordance with these principles that Jewish schools operate.
Unfortunately, we believe that the proposed measures are neither effective nor constructive in achieving the desired result. We believe that the memorandum is characterised by a lack of understanding and naivety in the face of the potential – albeit unintended – harm that the measures are likely to cause to Jewish schools in Sweden and perhaps to other minority schools.
The Official Council rejects the Ministry’s proposals and assessments in the memorandum and assumes that legislative proposals will not be put forward without the necessary modifications to ensure that the measures do not affect the Jewish national minority or other minorities with similar circumstances.
The Official Council reacts with astonishment to the lack of understanding of the arguments put forward in the Official Council’s opinion on SOU 2019:64 New rules for schools with a confessional orientation, as well as the striking discrepancy between politicians’ stated support for the Jewish minority and this legislative proposal, which may severely affect the Jewish minority and contribute to Swedish society becoming an increasingly unsafe place for Jewish families with children.
The proposed regulation would impoverish Jewish preschools, primary schools and after-school centres and could in the long term risk leading to an exodus of families with children to countries with a secure supply of Jewish schools. From an international perspective, the proposal appears to be separate, with unclear consequences for Sweden’s international commitments.
The Official Council continues to believe that the only guarantee for continued Jewish schooling in Sweden would be the establishment of a Jewish school form based on Swedish national minority legislation and the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Such a school would ensure the minority’s self-determination and right to define its own identity and culture and would allow the minority to determine the interface between culture and religion, in accordance with the Framework Convention.
Instead of introducing a moratorium on the establishment of denominational schools – under the proposed new definition of denominational schools – the Jewish Official Council believes that the Schools Inspectorate should be given more resources to monitor schools’ compliance with the democracy criterion and the curriculum, as well as ownership and management checks. However, the establishment freeze, in its effort to protect the rights and interests of pupils, risks unintentionally damaging and hampering even well-functioning and inclusive school activities.
The Official Council is also critical of the remarkably short consultation period on such a crucial issue for the Jewish minority.