By Simon Rocker
February 14, 2013
The Department for Education’s decision to ignore Jewish protests and refuse to recognise Hebrew as an official language for primary school teaching can only be described as an act of philistinism.
It makes absolutely no sense to include Latin and ancient Greek (along with French, Spanish, Italian, German and Spanish) on the list of seven – but not Hebrew.
Hebrew has long been considered one of the foundation languages of Western civilisation; as long as ago as the sixteenth century, Henry VIII instituted Regius chairs in Hebrew at Oxford and Cambridge.
The Department for Education argues that there will be nothing to stop schools offering more than one language – but they must teach at least one of the official seven.
Ideally, it might be desirable for children at primary school to learn more than one language – and there are some at Jewish schools who do.
But it is better that children learn at least one language properly than two patchily. And if Jewish schools – which have been attempting to improve their standards of Hebrew – want to concentrate on Ivrit, they should be free to do so.
I find it hard to believe that Education Secretary Michael Gove had much, if anything to do, with his officials’ narrow-mindedness. But he should step in now and reverse it.
Moreover, restricting the list of recognised languages to a paltry seven represents a central diktat which flies in the face of all the rhetoric about parental and local school choice.