Education in Israel

Education in Israel
Education in Israel
Herzliya Hebrew High School, 1936
Education Ministry
Education Minister of Israel Gideon Sa'ar
National education budget (2008)
Budget 27.5 billion
General Details
Primary Languages Hebrew & Arabic
System Type State & Private
Total 97.1
(99.5% of youth [2004])[1]
Total 1,445,555
Primary 828,732
Secondary 259,139
Post Secondary 357,685

Education in Israel refers to the comprehensive education system of Israel. Expenditure on education accounts for approximately 10% of GDP, and most schools are subsidized by the state.


Educational tracks

Israeli schools are divided into four tracks: state (Mamlachti), state-religious (Mamlachti dati), Independent (Haredi) schools (Chinuch Atzmai) and Arab.[2] There are also private schools which reflect the philosophies of specific groups of parents (Democratic Schools) or are based on a curriculum of a foreign country (e.g. The American School). The majority of Israeli children attend state schools. State-religious schools, catering to youngsters from the Orthodox sector (mainly Religious Zionist / Modern Orthodox), offer intensive Jewish studies programs and emphasize tradition and observance. The Chinuch Atzmai schools focus almost entirely on Torah study and offer very little in terms of secular subjects. Schools in the Arab sector teach in Arabic and offer a curriculum that emphasizes Arab history, religion and culture.[citation needed]

The education system consists of three tiers: primary education (grades 1-6, approx. ages 6–12), middle school (grades 7-9, approx. ages 12–15) and high school (grades 10-12, approx. ages 15–18). Compulsory education is from kindergarten through 12th grade.[3]

In 1984 the first integrated schools which had both Jewish and Arab students to coexist in a classroom were built by the residents of Neve Shalom – Wāħat as-Salām, a cooperative village founded by Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel. Today this school receives some support from the state. Two more integrated schools were opened in Jerusalem and Galilee (Galil Jewish-Arab School) in 1997 by Hand in Hand: Center for Jewish Arab Education in Israel.[4] By 2010 there are in total five integrated schools in Israel including that of Neve Shalom.

The school year in Israel begins on 1 September and ends, in elementary school on 30 June, and in middle school and high school on 20 June. From the school year of 2012, in Israel every school year will start on 26 August.

Israeli Pupils’ Rights Law

Israeli Pupils’ Rights Law of 2000, prohibit discrimination of students for sectarian reasons in admission to or expulsion from an educational institution, in establishment of separate educational curricula or holding of separate classes in the same educational institution, and rights and obligations of pupils.[5]

Matriculation (Bagrut)

Bagrut certificate from 1983

Secondary education prepares students for the Israeli matriculation exams (bagrut). These are exams covering various academic disciplines, which are studied in units (yehidot limud) of one to five on an ascending scale of difficulty. Students with a passing mark on the mandatory matriculation subjects (Hebrew language, English language, mathematics, scripture, history, state studies and literature), who have been tested on at least 21 units, and passed at least one 5-unit exam, receive a full matriculation certificate. In 2006/7, 74.4% of Israeli 12th graders took the bagrut exams while only 46.3% were eligible for a matriculation certificate. In the Arab and Druze sectors, the figures were 35.6% and 43.7% respectively.[6]

Below is a table illustrating the percentage of matriculation certificate recipients in Israel's largest cities, according to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics (graduation year of 2002).[7]

The Adva Center, a social issues think tank in Israel, says that about 15% of the matriculation certificates issued do not qualify the recipient for admission to Israel's universities.[8]

City Recipients (%)
Jerusalem 36
Tel Aviv 60.3
Haifa 64.3
Rishon LeZion 59.2
Ashdod 55.9
Ashkelon 58.5
Bat Yam 49.5
Beersheba 51.5
Holon 55.3
Netanya 52
Petah Tikva 57
Ramat Gan 65.3

Higher education

Computer science Faculty Building
in the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology

After secondary education, students are generally conscripted into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), but may request an extension of the conscription date to study at a pre-service Mechina, or in a college or university. Those who study in a university at this stage generally do so under a program called atuda, where the tuition for their Bachelor's Degree is paid for by the army. They are however obligated to sign a contract with the army extending their service by 2–3 years.

Universities generally require a certain amount of bagrut matriculation units (as well as a certain grade average) and a good grade in the Psychometric Entrance Test, which is similar in many respects to the American SAT. All of Israel's eight public universities, and some colleges, are subsidized by the state, and students pay only a small part of the actual cost as tuition.

Psychometric Entrance Test

The Psychometric Entrance Test (colloquially known in Hebrew as "the Psychometry" - ha-Psixometri, הפסיכומטרי) is a standardized test in Israel, generally taken as a higher education admission exam. The PET covers three areas: quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning and the English language. It is administered by the Israeli National Institute for Testing and Evaluation (NITE) and is heavily weighed for university admissions.

The test may be taken in Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, French, Spanish, or combined Hebrew/English.

Comparisons and rankings

According to the Webometrics ranking, six of Israel's universities place in the top 100 schools of Asia.[9] Four universities place in the top 150 in the world according to the Shanghai Jiao Tong University Academic Ranking of World Universities, and three are in the Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings (i.e. amongst the "Top 200 World Universities").

In addition, Israeli universities are among 100 top world universities in science and engineering: mathematics (TAU, Hebrew University and Technion); physics (TAU, Hebrew University and Weizmann Institute of Science); chemistry (TAU, Hebrew University and Technion); computer science (TAU, Hebrew University, Weizmann Institute of Science, BIU and Technion); [10] Engineering (Technion); [11] Life sciences (Hebrew University). [12]

In the social sciences, TAU and the Hebrew University rank in the top 100,[13] these universities are also ranked in the top 100 for economics; [10] also for economics, Israel as a country is ranked 23rd on RePec's Country and State Ranking .[14]

In 2010, Hebrew University reached 57th place in the global ranking list published by Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China.[15]

Educational disparity

Jewish and Arab teachers at Hand in Hand

Israel is a signatory of the Convention against Discrimination in Education, and ratified it in 1961. The convention has the status of law in Israeli courts.[16]

Israel operates an Arab education system for Israeli-Arabs minority that teaches Arab students, in Arabic, about their history and culture. However, there have been claims that the Jewish education system get more resources. According to the Follow-Up Committee for Arab Education, the Israeli government spends an average of $192 per year on each Arab student and $1,100 per Jewish student. It also notes that drop-out rate for Israeli Arab citizens is twice as high as that of their Jewish counterparts (12 percent versus 6 percent). The same group also noted that in 2005 there was a 5,000-classroom shortage in the Arab sector.[17]

In attempt to close the gap between Arab and Jewish education sectors, the Israeli education minister announced an affirmative action policy, promising thshowed that obstacles at Arabs would be granted 25% of the education budget, more than their proportional share in the population (18%). He also added that the ministry would support the creations of an Arab academic college. [18]

In 2001 a Human Rights Watch report stated that students in government-run Arab schools received inferior education due to fewer teachers, inadequate school construction, and lack of libraries and recreational space. Jewish schools were found to be better equipped, some offering film editing studios and theater rooms.[19] The report found substantial differences in many aspects of the education system.[20][21]In 2009 Sorel Cahan of Hebrew University's School of Education claimed that Israel's Education Ministry discriminates against Arabs in its allocations of special assistance for students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Cahan wrote that the average per-student allocation at Arab junior high schools was one-fifth lower.[22]

In 2007 the Israeli Education Ministry announced a plan to increase funding for schools in Arab communities. According to a ministry official, "At the end of the process, a lot of money will be directed toward schools with students from families with low education and income levels, mainly in the Arab sector."[23] The Education Ministry prepared a five-year plan to close the gaps and raise the number of students eligible for high school matriculation.[24]

A 2009 report showed that obstacles to Arab students participating in higher education resulted in over 5,000 moving to study in nearby Jordan.[25][26] And in 2010 human rights groups and lawyers criticized a number of measures which were introduced to benefit Jewish secondary school leavers and adversely affected Arab students intending to enroll in higher education.[27]

The Ministry of Education announced in April 2010 that the suggested curriculum for the coming school year will not include civics, democratic values or Jewish-Arab coexistence and focuses more on Zionist and Jewish values.[28]


Status of teachers

Over the years, government budget cuts and underpaid teachers have taken their toll. Israel was amongst the top-ranked nations in international rankings for science and mathematics performance in the 1960s, but dropped to 33 out of 41 nations in the 2002 survey.[29] Wages for Israeli teachers are low compared to other industrialized countries, especially due to the small amount of frontal teaching hours with respect to other developed countries (The salary per hour is similar to that of the OECD standards), according to a survey of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Dovrat Commission

The government-appointed Dovrat Commission, led by Shlomo Dovrat, concluded in 2004, that the key to improving Israeli education is not more money but better-quality teaching. The recommendations included a reform giving school principals the right to fire bad teachers and reward good ones with higher pay. These moves have been blocked by Israel's teachers' unions, which have paralyzed schools with a series of long strikes, mostly blocking the proposed reforms.[30]

Claims textbooks contain bias

Nurit Peled-Elhanan, a professor of language and education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has published Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education, an account of her study of the contents of Israeli school books. She asserts that the books promote racism against and negative images of Arabs, and that they prepare young Israelis for their compulsory military service. After examining "hundreds and hundreds" of books, Peled-Elhanan claims she did not find one photograph that depicted an Arab as a "normal person". She has stated that the most important finding in the books she studied concerns the historical narrative of events in 1948, the year in which Israel fought a war to establish itself as an independent state. She claims that the killing of Palestinians is depicted as something that was necessary for the survival of the nascent Jewish state. "It's not that the massacres are denied, they are represented in Israeli school books as something that in the long run was good for the Jewish state."[31] After reviewing a previous paper by Peled-Ehanan, "The Presentation of Palestinians in Israeli Schoolbooks of History and Geography 1998-2003" in which only seven books were examined, Arnon Groiss of the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, a schoolbook monitoring organization, disputed Peled-Elehan's findings in that paper. Groiss concluded that "Peled-Ehanan's claim regarding this point is clearly false ... This heavily politicized and thus biased approach distorts the material to produce a picture to her liking." Groiss further criticized the work of Peled-Elhanan in that paper for stretching the definition of racism to include cases that researchers would normally categorize as ethnocentrism.[32]

In a report published in 2000, the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace stated that in textbooks of both the general state-run network and the religious state-run network, there was a genuine effort to remove stereotypes and to build a foundation for coexistence and mutual respect between the two peoples. There are many stories that describe friendships between Jews and Arabs in Islamic countries and in Israel even in times of war. There are stories of Jews helping Arabs in daily life and in war as well as stories of Arabs rescuing Jews from physical harm and helping Jews to maintain their religion and identity. In many literary anthologies there are stories about the daily life of Arabs written by Arab authors. Some stories deal with the tensions created by the transition from a traditional society with its values and customs, to a modern western society. In some books in the ultra-orthodox network relations between Arabs and Jews were portrayed in negative terms.[33]

According to a 2011 report by the Arab Cultural Association, Arabic textbooks provided to third grade to ninth grade students in Israeli schools contained at least 16,255 mistakes. The report was based on a study and examination of textbooks in all subjects by a committee, headed by Dr. Elias Atallah. Association director Dr. Rawda Atallah said the findings were not surprising, since they were similar to the findings of a previous study published in November 2009, which reported that more than 4,000 mistakes in language and syntax were found in textbooks for second grade students in Arab schools. Researchers also spoke about the way in which Arab students' cultural and national identities are covered. For example, whilst textbooks state that Jews and non-Jews live in the Galilee, the word "Arab" is never mentioned. Dr. George Mansour, who examined the history textbooks, reported that they ignored the presence of the Arab-Palestinian people in Israel and stressed the Promised Land of the Jewish people: "There is a process of de-Palestinization, instilling of the Zionist narrative and minimizing of Arab culture," reported Dr. Mansour. [34]


Israeli schools and universities have been subject to repeated strikes over the years by faculty, and, occasionally, students.

2007 student strike

The 2007 Israeli student strike started in April 2007 in protest at the government decision to increase tuition fees[35] and the failure to implement the 2001 Winograd Committee recommendation that they be reduced by 25%.[36] Students have clashed with police, blocked roads and been arrested.[37][38]

After three weeks of strikes the presidents of the universities tried to break the strike with the threat that all students who failed to return to their studies on 8 May would have to retake the semester. The student leadership responded by intensifying the strike.[39] On 7 May students prevented the reopening of the universities by sealing off university entrances with chains.[40] Student leaders rejected a compromise proposal by the Israeli Prime Minister which would have exempted current students from the fee rises.[41] Divisions amongst students have been reported in the Israeli media.[42] Some students also started a hunger strike.[43]

Negotiations between the Students and the Israeli government have failed to end the strike, despite reported breakthroughs.[44]

The strike ended on May 14 after Student leaders narrowly agreed a compromise with the government which accepted the implementation of the controversial Shochat reforms. This agreement was unpopular with grassroots student activists.[45]

2007 teacher strike

Middle and secondary school teachers were on strike for over a month and a half. Their demands include an 8.5% pay raise, reducing class sizes to a maximum of 30 students, and increasing the length of the school day.[46]

The senior faculty of the universities were on strike between the opening of the 2007 autumn semester and mid-December 2007 after the Jewish holiday of Hannukah. The school year, for all the schools who struck, was extended until July 10, 2008.

See also


  1. ^ "Globalis - an interactive world map - Israel - Youth literacy rate". Retrieved 2010-08-10. 
  2. ^ Leibler, Isi (2008-04-18). "Candidly Speaking: Bravo to Michael Melchior". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2009-09-06. 
  3. ^ "ynet חוק חינוך חובה - מעתה עד כיתות י"ב - חדשות היום". 1995-06-20.,7340,L-3426749,00.html. Retrieved 2010-08-10. 
  4. ^ "Third bilingual school for Israeli Jews and Arabs opens its doors 5-Sep-2004". 2004-09-05. Retrieved 2010-08-10. 
  5. ^ "חוק זכויות התלמיד באנגלית - Pupils’ Rights Law". Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  6. ^ Kashti, Or (2008-04-02). "Less than half of 17-year-olds in Israel qualify for matriculation". Haaretz. Retrieved 2010-08-10. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "מרכז אדוה - עמוד בית". Retrieved 2010-08-10. 
  9. ^ Webometrics list of the top 100 Asian universities.
  10. ^ a b "Academic Ranking of World Universities - 2009". Institute of Higher Education, Shanghai Jiao Tong University. 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-14. 
  11. ^ "THE - QS World University Rankings 2009 - Engineering/Technology". THE - QS. 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-15. 
  12. ^ "THE - QS World University Rankings 2009 - Life Sciences & Biomedicine". THE - QS. 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-15. 
  13. ^ "THE - QS World University Rankings 2007 - Social Sciences". THE - QS. 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-15. 
  14. ^ "Top Countries and States". RePec. 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-15. 
  15. ^ Fields Medal win propels Hebrew University to 57th place
  16. ^ Human Rights Watch, 'Second class: Discrimination against against palestinian arab children in Israel's schools, pp 13-16
  17. ^ "Arab Sector: NIF Grantees Fight Discrimination in Arab Education". New Israel Fund. 2005-09-13. Archived from the original on 2007-08-07. 
  18. ^ Middle East Contemporary Survey, Volume 23; By Bruce Maddy-Weitzman. p. 329
  19. ^ Israeli Schools Separate, Not Equal (Human Rights Watch, 5-12-2001)
  20. ^ Human Rights Watch: Second Class: Discrimination Against Palestinian Arab Children in Israel's Schools - Summary
  21. ^ Second Class - Discrimination Against Palestinian Arab Children in Israel's Schools, Human Rights Watch.
  22. ^ Kashti, Or (2008-04-02). "Israel aids its needy Jewish students more than Arab counterparts". Haaretz. Retrieved 2010-08-10. 
  23. ^ Israeli Arabs to get greater school funding, settlements less, Haaretz, 06.03.07 by Or Kashti
  24. ^ Israel's education woes, YNet, 09.21.10, by Tomer Velmer
  25. ^ ظﺎﻫرة دراﺴﺔ اﻟطﻼب اﻟﻌرب ﻤن اﺴراﺌﻴل ﻓﻲ اﻟﺠﺎﻤﻌﺎت اﻻردﻨﻴﺔ Dirasat (in Arabic)
  26. ^ Israel's Arab students are crossing to Jordan The National Apr 9, 2009
  27. ^ No room for Arab students at Israeli universities Global Research, August 17, 2010
  28. ^ Israel's plan for next year's school curriculum: Reinforcing Jewish and Zionist values Haaretz 14.04.11
  29. ^ "The Crisis in Israel's Classrooms". Businessweek. 2007-11-19. Retrieved 2010-08-10. 
  30. ^ Miracles and mirages, The Economist. Apr 3 2008
  31. ^ Sherwood, Harriet (7 August 2011). "Academic claims Israeli school textbooks contain bias". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  32. ^ Arnon Groiss. Comments on Nurit Peled-Elhanan's paper: "The Presentation of Palestinians in Israeli Schoolbooks of History and Geography 1998-2003". Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP-RA)
  33. ^ Arabs and Palestinians in Israeli Textbooks, September 2000 Report. by Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, pp. 7–10
  34. ^ "Israel textbooks in Arabic are full of mistakes". Haaretz. 09.05.11. 
  35. ^ Student and Teacher Strikes Continue, No End in Sight Israel National News, 7 May 2007
  36. ^ Tamir, students union announce cancellation of university strike Haaretz, 24 February 2007
  37. ^ Education: Striking while the iron is hot Jerusalem Post, 3 May 2007
  38. ^ The ‘red revolution’ for free education
  39. ^ Students threaten to step up strike, 'seal off' campuses Haaretz, 6 May 2007
  40. ^ Protesting students bar Tel Aviv University with chains and barbed wire Haaretz, 7 May 2007
  41. ^ Student leader: Compromise presented by PMO is 'humiliating'
  42. ^ Ynet article
  43. ^ Striking students set to expand protest against education reforms
  44. ^ Student union representatives: Strike to continue as planned
  45. ^ Universities to reopen today as 41-day strike ends
  46. ^ אולמרט: מקווה ששביתת שהמורים תסתיים עד סוף השבוע

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