Anton Lucanus
Anton Lucanus

You will be surprised by these facts about the education system in Israel

Surprises are everywhere in life, and a lot of things that we find normal in our countries may be seen as abnormal in foreign places. In fact, there is an ancient proverb that says “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, which emphasizes on cultural differences between countries and one’s adaptability to these customs. From greeting gestures, to cuisines, to even education systems, every country is indeed different from one other in a variety of ways. 

For a country like Israel where its culture is a stunning mixture of varying influences, many newcomers will definitely find revelations about the country’s way of life. The stunning landscape, fascinating architecture, and particularly the education system have grown from the Israeli culture and rich history. Below are a few facts about education in Israel that make the country’s techniques of educating young minds special. 

There are five different groups of secondary schools 

Israel’s society is so diverse, and the education system has its unique ways of accommodating this. Schools in the country are categorized into five groups: state schools, state religious schools, independent religious schools, and independent private schools.

 

75-percent of the state school’s curriculum is state-mandated, and the remaining 25-percent is supplementary. The fundamental curriculum includes language skills, mathematics, science, Jewish studies, art, history, and physical subjects; whereas, supplementary subjects are determined by the education committee of each school. 

For state religious schools, the basic curriculum stays the same, but the selection of supplementary subjects lies heavily on Jewish and religious studies. The students and staff follow the practices of religious norms in an environment of Torah. Independent religious schools are Talmud Torah institutions that dedicate all of their efforts to religious observance and studies, with a touch of other subjects like mathematics, history, science, and language skills. The Ministry of Education has no responsibility for the school’s curriculum. 

For independent private schools, these have gained the recognition of the Minister of Education and include the basic state curriculum. However, the parents and staff of each school get to decide over the educational and instructional norms. Democratic schools where students and parents run the operation collaboratively are one of the examples that fall under this category. 

High schools are not compulsory

Israeli students at the age of 16 are given the freedom to choose to further their studies. The Israeli government mandates education for all children from ages 6 to 16. Students can attend preschools and schools free of cost, and the official language taught in school is Hebrew. The study of other languages begins at age 10.

 

Primary schools are for students from 6 to 11, and at the age of 10, students get to study either French or English. Students from 11 to 16 attend junior high schools. In Israel, high school education has two stages: junior high schools and high schools. Junior high schools are compulsory, whereas students having just completed junior high school education can choose to progress to the next level of education by attending high schools. There are also after-school or out-of-school services that students can enjoy, such as educational services and physical activity programs. 

Sunday is the first day of the country’s working and school week

If you have loved Sundays as a day of relaxation and leisure, this may absolutely be bad news for you. Just like its normal work week, the country’s standard school week starts on Sunday. Plus, Israeli children also have more school days than their counterparts in other countries. 

 

On average, Israeli kids have 34 more days of school than children in several developed countries, with 219 elementary school days every year.  The compulsory elementary school days are 18 more than the total number of school days in Japan and 34 greater than the OECD average amount of school days.

Military training is part of the education system

For Israelis, it is no surprise that many students have shot a gun before they graduate high school. Gadna is a military training program that helps students get accustomed to the Israeli army life. High schoolers endure tough training for a week, undergoing multiple weapon lessons, combat programs, and field training. 

After graduation, Israeli fresh school leavers are again enlisted to military service. The law requires those who have just turned 18 to join the 3-year military program. However, the service is not mandatory for the ultra-Orthodox and Arab Israelis. 

Not just military training, hiking also forms part of the curriculum 

The country is well-known for its hiking culture, and in both secular and religious schools, long-distance hiking activities are part of their annual curriculums. Several schools organize their annual hiking programs along the Israel border-to-border National Trail so by the time that the students graduate, they will have completed exploring the country from the top to the bottom.

 

Despite these differences, Israeli universities have made it to the global top 100 list in religious studies

Israeli universities have been placed among the top 100 schools for religious studies, ideology, and divinity. Some universities also take the lead in the field of biology and mathematics although their rankings are way lower than that of other higher education institutions. 

For religious studies, ideology, and divinity, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was placed 13th among 100 higher institutions, and Tel Aviv University was ranked 32nd. In the mathematical field, Technion Israel Institute of Technology ranked in 66th place. The Technion almost got itself to the list of top 100 universities for computer science, ranking 103rd.

MIT has taken the throne as the leading university, with Hebrew University ranking first among many other Israeli universities globally. Tel Aviv University and the Technion were ranked 230th and 291st respectively. 

About the Author
Scientist turned techie. Founder at Neliti & Reputio. Interested in sharing lessons learnt from Tel Aviv's bustling technology ecosystem.
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