Changing the Narrative on Jewish Day Schools
Much has been made about the “crisis” of enrolment at GTA Jewish day schools and I want to acknowledge the concerns in our community about this state of affairs. Yet, while it is true that several schools are closing their campuses, the exaggerated narrative we hear is that the Jewish day school system in Toronto is close to collapse. People fear that if something isn’t done to curb costs and attract families back into the system, there soon won’t be any Jewish day schools left.
But, to paraphrase Mark Twain, the rumours of the demise of Jewish day schools have been greatly exaggerated. While some schools have experienced drops in enrolment, others — including Bialik — have experienced continuous growth.
What’s most important to try to understand in this changing climate is why this is happening, so that we can keep striving to ensure our Jewish day school community stays alive and well. I personally believe there to be three keys to Bialik’s forging of an alternative narrative of success in Toronto’s current Jewish day school environment — location, reasonable cost and programmatic excellence:
Families in the GTA have a wide range of Jewish day schools from which to choose for their children. And, while many select a school that fits their religious affiliations or perspectives, we know that others enrol their children in schools that are geographically convenient. This makes sense — our modern lives are complicated and hectic and having our children learn close to home simplifies transportation arrangements and minimizes commute times. Bialik’s decision to open our Himel Branch on the Lebovic Campus in Vaughan was based, in large part, on the demographics of the region. Over the past twenty years, the number of Jewish children in the area has grown by 700%. Now, hundreds of the young Jewish children in families surrounding the branch have joined our ranks and our Himel Branch continues to grow!
2. Reasonable Cost
The decision to invest in Jewish day school education entails a significant financial commitment. Families often have to make tough choices about spending, given the thousands required for tuition fees. Given that reality, it is important to do all we can to keep the cost of Jewish education down and limit annual increases. In the last few years, at Bialik we have seen the lowest annual total fee increases in our school’s history — all well below the inflation rate. We want our families to know that we appreciate what investing in a Bialik education means for them and we are going to do all that we can to keep it affordable.
3. Programmatic Excellence
Finally, excellence throughout the school’s program is critical to prolonged success. In Jewish day schools, that means being on the educational cutting edge in both general and Jewish studies. At Bialik, we have embraced this challenge, infusing critical thinking and innovation into all aspects of our program. Problem-based challenges and design thinking permeate both our Jewish and general studies curricula, and state-of-the art STEM Makerspaces are central to our building facilities. We combine this academic excellence with first-rate playgrounds, rich extra-curricular offerings, and a community infused with Zionism, Ahavat Yisrael, and Mentschlechkeit, making for an environment that attracts families wanting top-notch education and a strong Jewish identity for their children.
At Bialik, we are grateful for the support and trust that our families put in us, our approach to education and the development of their children’s Jewish identity. We strongly believe in our program and look forward to continuing to provide conveniently located, affordable and excellent well-rounded education to our community.
Head of School