The British government is planning to exclude Hebrew from a list of recognized languages in the education system. According to a report by the 'Jewish Chronicle' the Board of Deputies of British Jews warned this week that this could damage Jewish education in the country. Education Minister Elizabeth Truss announced plans last month to make it compulsory, from September 2014, to teach a foreign language to children aged seven to 11. Schools would be required to offer at least one of only seven recognized languages, excluding Hebrew, the paper reports.
Many Jewish primary schools, which have to fit in Jewish studies alongside the national curriculum, currently offer Hebrew as their only foreign language. According to the Board of Deputies, they would find it impossible to continue teaching it if they were compelled to offer another foreign language as well.
Board Senior Vice-President Laura Marks said the government proposals could be “extremely detrimental to our community’s identity". Language, including modern and classical Hebrew, was "a vital ingredient to understanding our faith and culture,” she said according to the 'Jewish Chronicle', and she urged the government “to reject the idea of stipulating just a narrow range of languages”.
The importance of classical Hebrew was recognised nearly 600 years ago in England when King Henry VIII established professorships in the subject at Oxford and Cambridge.