The State Hebrew educational system (mamlachti/ mamlachti dati) is based on the Jewish calendar and seeks to impart civic values, Jewish heritage, a high level of technological and analytical skills, and broad based knowledge. Despite adherence to a basic state curriculum, there are great differences among schools. The Ministry of Education is involved in an ongoing process of bringing educational standards in line with modern pedagogical practices such as mandating gender equality, broadening humanistic curricula and promoting scientific and technological studies. However, reducing large class sizes and drawing talented educators into the teaching pool are immediate needs that must be attended to in order to achieve the Ministry’s long- and short-term pedagogical goals.
One of Israel’s most pressing challenges is to provide equal opportunities in education for all children. In this country of contrasts, the educational system is a troubling testimony to just how wide the gaps are in Israeli society. While a Jewish child in the central part of the country may attend a school with lawns, stone pathways and flowerbeds, classes of no more than 28 pupils, air- conditioning, state of the art computer and fine arts facilities, a progressive curriculum and experienced teachers; a Bedouin child in the Negev will likely attend school in a rickety building with no working toilets, and after having walked kilometers to get there, will sit in unheated or unairconditioned classrooms of over 40 pupils. The challenge is great, and little by little, Israel is investing the funds and resources to eventually bring all schools to a level of excellence.
When the State of Israel was founded (1948), a fully functioning Hebrew educational system already existed, built and maintained by the Yishuv, the pre-state Jewish community. These schools had successfully met the challenges of reviving the Hebrew language and integrating the olim who came to Palestine.
Over the past fifty years, Israel has welcomed over two and a half million immigrants, and its school population has increased more than tenfold. Thus the educational system has been almost continuously faced with the enormous challenge of integrating large numbers of children from different cultural backgrounds. In the 1950s, most immigrants came from post-war Europe and Arab countries, in the 1960s from North Africa and in the 1970s, 80s and 90s from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia. Over the decades, newcomers have also arrived from the Americas and other parts of the free world.
In addition to meeting urgent demands for more classrooms and qualified teachers for the rapidly increasing number of pupils, the educational system has tried to develop appropriate methods to help absorb the newcomers which include teacher training programs geared towards working with immigrant pupils; preparing special curricular aids; opening short-term classes to introduce immigrant pupils to subjects not learned in their countries of origin such as the Hebrew language and Jewish history; and offering retraining courses to immigrant teachers to facilitate their employment in the education system.
For information about types of schools in Israel, click here
For information about school setup and matriculation exams, click here
For information about atmosphere and values in Israeli schools, click here
For information about informal education and expenses, click here
For information about special needs and gifted children, click here