Starting in the coming school year, eighth- and ninth-grade students in Israeli schools, including state-religious schools, will be taught the theory of evolution as a mandatory part of the science curriculum, the Education Ministry's professional committee has decided.
Until now, Charles Darwin's theory was only taught in elective biology classes. The Education Ministry plans to introduce the topic into the curriculum in a way that will not offend the beliefs of religious students, focusing on the development of various species of plants and animals rather than on the development of man from apes.
The committee decided that new science textbooks on the topic will be written before the beginning of next school year.
Professional Committee Chairwoman Professor Nava Ben-Zvi told Israel Hayom that "in the textbooks being written now, they will address the theory without hurting the feelings of the religious public."
"Until now, there has been no discussion on the topic and students were not taught that the multitude of species is the result of processes of development among plants and animals," she said.
"The entire evolutionary perspective had not been written down [for them], as with the topics of ecology and the behavior of animals. It is important to explain how so many species came to be."
Ben-Zvi addressed the issue of respecting the religious public, saying, "In the section about the formation of species, they discuss the development of different species, and species that became extinct. Students learn about evolution throughout the Western world, and our students will learn about it, too -- but without offending religious people."
The lesson plan written for eighth-grade students instructs that "in the sections dealing with factors that influence the size of a population, go into detail about those with higher chances of survival who will pass on traits to their descendants. This is part of the basis of the theory of evolution, which provides possible explanations for the species we find on earth today, as compared with those found in the past."