Source: Religious Education, 2019
This article aims to describe the development of a curriculum framework for prayer in UK centrist orthodox Jewish primary schools. This process began in 2011 and continues in an ongoing way. This is the first time that there has been a communal effort across Jewish schools that focuses on this area of the curriculum.
The impetus for such a framework arose following interviews with headteachers, parents, teachers, and students in Jewish schools about the aims and purposes of prayer in the Jewish day school. It also includes observations of prayer services in these schools. The qualitative research methodology adopted enabled the collection of rich descriptive data that formed the basis for the design of the framework. Subsequently materials have been written in line with the framework. It is hoped that this research will be of value to all faith schools and those interested in school prayer.
The following draft framework was designed in 2012, based on our qualitative research findings as described above. The framework attempted to integrate both the literacy and spiritual orientations.
First, the aim of the tefillah curriculum was defined and then a framework was constructed to provide more detail of the structure of the curriculum.
"The overall aim of Tefillah (prayer) in Jewish primary schools is to ensure that pupils graduate with;
A. A positive and meaningful experience of and attitude toward prayer (spiritual orientation)
B. Good levels of knowledge, competence, and confidence in saying and comprehending their prayers (literacy orientation)
The spiritual orientation was intentionally placed first as the “A” goal based on the findings that the majority of stakeholders saw this as the primary goal while at the same time giving prominence to the literacy orientation "B."
We then developed each one of these two overall goals into the sub-sections and categories as described below. Based on this framework, schemes of work and resources were written that allow teachers to guide pupils to achieve good levels of competence, confidence, and spiritual uplift in their regular prayers and personal prayers, integrating both literacy and spiritual orientations into the curriculum.
While this curriculum has been written for Jewish schools, we believe that there is much to learn from the process for other faith schools as well. Most significantly, the results of the qualitative research have indicated the importance of developing prayer curriculum with spiritual orientations. Learning the mechanics of the prayers and their literal meaning is of course important to all faith schools where prayer services are conducted. But consideration needs to be given as well on how these aspects of school prayer can be complemented by spiritual messages. When implemented wisely such an integrated framework could potentially lead to fundamental shifts in students’ perceptions of the efficacy of school prayer.