Education and Schools in Israel
The Israeli education system is strongly underpinned by the goals of imparting civic values, knowledge of Jewish heritage, technological and analytical skills, as well as a broad general knowledge base to students.
Schools in Israel are generally more informal compared with those in America and the UK. The socio-economic status of a neighbourhood greatly affects the atmosphere in its schools. Teachers and principals are addressed by their first names. The curriculum tends to be broader than that found in North American schools, and emphasises maths, science and foreign languages.
Kindergarten and elementary schools attempt to follow a progressive model, valuing experience and social exchange, as well as creativity, play and emotional development.
Hebrew is the main language spoken in institutions of higher education, whereas Arabic is the language of instruction at Israel’s three teacher-training colleges. Some programmes and courses are taught in English.
The academic calendar year follows the Jewish calendar.
Public education in Israel
Israel provides free and compulsory elementary education for all children up to the age of 18 years. Tuition is free; however, textbooks and school supplies usually need to be purchased. Other fees are generally required for extra-curricular activities, such as school trips, English lessons and parties.
Private education in Israel
If expat children do not speak Hebrew or Arabic, then private schooling is the best option. There are also numerous international schools in Israel, where expat children can continue with the curriculum they are used to.
Private schools can be very expensive for those earning a local salary, but the quality of education is much better than that of a public school. Those earning expat salaries will find private education in Israel considerably less expensive than in their home country.
Applying to a private school in Israel
Private schools can be highly competitive and many require rigorous testing before admitting a student. Students typically undergo verbal reasoning and English proficiency tests, a maths test and, in some cases, a science test. The head teacher may also interview the prospective student.
International schools in Israel
There are also a number of international schools in Israel that expat parents can send their children to. The benefit of an international school is not only the high quality of education available, but also that it offers continuity with the curricula of international schools in other countries. International schools in Israel also offer an extremely diverse cultural setting for expat children, and they will be classmates with students from all over the world.
A drawback of international schools is their school fees, which are considerably higher than that of public or other, non-international private schools. Most international schools in Israel are in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and provide either the UK, US or French curriculum.
Israel has a total of eight large universities, most of which are based in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. An Open University also exists, but it focused primarily on adult learning.
In order to gain admission to an institution of higher education, students require a full matriculation certificate (bagrut) from the national Ministry of Education. This is acquired by achieving passing grades in a required minimum set of examinations, in both compulsory subjects and electives. Receipt of a bagrut, and high test scores, greatly influences one's acceptance into elite military units, academic studies and employment.
The other requirement for admission is the national academic admissions psychometric examination. Equivalent to SAT examinations in the United States, the psychometric examination consists of three components: verbal aptitude (administered in Hebrew or Arabic), quantitative aptitude and English ability. The institutions of higher education in Israel merge the candidates' bagrut grades and their psychometric scores into a single composite score, which is then used to determine whether they will be accepted or rejected.