In recent times, Israel has received positive press for its education system. Just a few months ago, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reported that Israel is the 3rd highest country for adult education, and even scored higher than the United States of America. According to the OECD, Israelis between the ages of 25 and 64, 49.90% completed a form of higher education, which beats the United States by approximately 4%. Canada and Japan ranked the highest in the OECD’s report, with completion rates of 56.27% and 50.50% respectively.
In the North American and European educational systems uniform subject matter is taught. However, in Israel, schools can choose from a wide variety of study units and teaching materials, all of which are provided by the Israeli Ministry of Education. Emphasis is placed on learning practical hands-on skills that will help their students such as learning to code, using Microsoft office, installing Google Slides themes, or entrepreneurship. Another contrast with education around the world is that Israeli students only take a standardized test only once when they are around 17 or 18 years old. It is also not unusual for those students who did not pass these tests to retry retaking these tests after they complete their compulsory military service. Students (except for some, i.e. Orthodox, Pacifists, Arabs) enlist in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) at the age of 18 and do not start their post-secondary studies until they reach the age of 21 or 22. Women usually serve around two years in service while men usually serve around three years. The IDF is one of Israel’s most important institutions and influences Israel’s economy, culture, political scene, and education.
Education is essential in Israel, and this is understandably so. Public funding accounts for roughly 70% of Israel’s higher education budget. Of course, there is another factor we should remember when analyzing Israel’s successful education system. Israel also has mandatory military enrollment for its citizens over the age of eighteen and is likely to be an essential factor behind Israeli students seeking higher education. During their military service, the participants learn the value of discipline, leadership, and commitment, and these lessons likely follow with them throughout their life, including their higher education and career choices. During this two-three year period, participants are allowed to mature and further develop, instead of just rushing off to school for additional studies. Israel’s military service and low education costs are factors that need to be considered when considering how Israel has been moving up the global education ranks.