The Ministry of Education (Misrad HaChinuch) is responsible for determining and implementing education policy and for overseeing state, state religious and independent education systems.
Types of schools
Schools in Israel are divided into four types:
- State schools - The majority of Israeli children attend these
- State-religious – catering to the religious sector
- Haredi (ultra orthodox) schools – these schools act independently but must adhere to the curriculum determined by the Ministry of Education in order to receive funding
- Arab schools - offer a curriculum that emphasizes Arab history, religion and culture
In Israel the school’s academic year begins on 1 September. The elementary schools end on 30 June. Middle schools or high schools end the academic year on 20 June.
Primary School or Elementary School
- From grades one through six; approximately ages 6-12.
- A moadonit (mo’a’don’it) is an after school program that children can attend and it includes a meal. There is an additional cost for this.
Junior High or Middle School
Grades seven, eight, and nine; approximately ages 12-15
High School or Secondary School
Grades ten through twelve; approximately ages 15-18
There are three main types of secondary schools:
- Academic high schools that prepare students to take the national matriculation examination in order to enter university
- Vocational high schools
- Agricultural high schools
School uniforms in Israel
In most schools in Israel, school uniforms are worn. The uniform is much more relaxed than the uniforms in the U.K., South Africa and Australia.
The summer uniform in most state schools consists of a T-shirt and pants. The shirts can be any of the colors as stipulated by the school. There is a huge range. Each school l has its own emblem which by way of an iron-on transfer, is applied to the T-shirt. The transfers are available from any of the stores that specialize in school uniforms. Generally the cost of the shirt includes the transfer. The store will charge you around 10 shekels for a transfer if you have not purchased the shirt from them. Generally shorts, pants and trousers are black or blue. Each school has its own special uniform requirement for physical training (chi’nuch goo’fa’ni) - generally yellow, blue or white. All school-children are required to have a white shirt (chool’tza le’va’na) - for assemblies, ceremonies and other special events.
The same applies for the winter uniform. The uniform is generally a sweatshirt, training pants or jeans. Some schools are flexible when it comes to winter jackets and coats, others insist on a zippered sweatshirt with the school emblem. The school also stipulates a winter version of the uniform for physical training. Again a white sweatshirt is a necessity for assemblies, ceremonies and other special events.
For many reasons, not all the classrooms are heated efficiently in the winter and your child may have to keep his jacket or coat on for much of the day. We suggest that you sew a name tag in each of your child's shirts or jackets. Although uniforms are not very expensive, it is very frustrating when an item gets lost.
Most schools encourage the individuality of students and have their own level of leniency with regard to the uniform. Generally high schools are more lenient than elementary schools.
Yes, homes-chooling is legal in Israel and there is a growing trend in Israel to home-school children.
Should I make Aliyah while my child is in high-school or should I wait?
Many families with teenage children, considering Aliyah, are confronted with a difficult decision; to make Aliyah while their child is still in high-school or wait a few years until they have completed their studies. There are so many variables and there is no perfect answer or magic solution.
Even if the answer to all these questions is YES, it is still not guaranteed that they will not have problems adjusting at school. Like any child rearing issue, so much depends on the attitude of the parents especially towards the Aliyah and the education process.
Does your child have any prior knowledge of Hebrew?
Has he/she visited Israel prior to immigration (with family or on summer camps or other programs?
Does he/she already have any childhood friends or family who now live in Israel?
Does he/she generally adjust well to a new or stressful situation?
Is he/she motivated to make a success of their studies?
What are your child's expectations?
What preparations have been made, research carried out and discussions held, by the family, prior to Aliyah?
Will your child have to repeat a year or part of the year?
Does it all come down to the child's personality, preferences and dreams?
Will all the children in the same family respond in a similar way?
Are you planning on living in a predominantly English speaking community?
Are you going to be living in a secular, religious or ultra-religious community?
Will your child be attending a religious school, where studying Hebrew is "cool" and is a large part of the curriculum?
For whatever reason, will English be the only language spoken at home?
Is one of the parents a Hebrew speaker?
Does your child want to make Aliyah as much as you do?
Language is the key to integration. Having a tutor, attending Hebrew-school (cheder) or a Jewish day school and developing some language skills, prior to Aliyah, does help. On the other hand, if you decide to make Aliyah when your child has finished high-school, there is no guarantee that he/she will come with you, which will in effect, split the entire family. No matter what age, your child will be required to do army service (in Hebrew). The earlier you make Aliyah, the easier it is for the child to make good friends. High-school children socialize in groups. They may serve in the same army unit, travel together during a gap-year and even develop professional dealings with each other at a later stage. Whatever you do, your attitude as parents is critical. The transition has to be made gently and slowly, giving the teen as much support and confidence as possible and at the same time, keeping control over the process.
Bagrut- Israel Matriculation Exam
Getting a bagrut (matriculation) in Israel takes 3 years – grades 10, 11 and 12. In some other countries final exams, for all subjects, are written at the end of grade 12. In Israel some subject modules are completed and final exams are written in each of the 3 years. Your child may be expected to sit for a final exam, to be answered in Hebrew, 6 or 8 months after arriving. Without a bagrut, your child will not be able to enter an Israeli university. Rewriting exams or catching-up after serving in the army, can be very difficult.
Secondary education prepares students for the Israeli matriculation exams (bagrut). Subjects are studied in modules(yehidot limud) of one to five on an ascending scale of difficulty.
Hebrew language, English language, mathematics, Jewish studies and literature are mandatory. There is also a selection of electives. Students with a passing mark on these subjects, who have been tested on at least 21 modules and passed at least one 5-unit exam, receive a full matriculation certificate from the national Ministry of Education.
In order to get your Bagrut certificate, you need to pass a minimum of 21 modules as follows:
2 modules Tanach (Bible study)
2 modules of History
2 modules of Lashon (Language)
1 module of Ezrachut (Civics)
Sport (counted as 1 module)
3 modules of Maths and up to 5
3 modules of English and up to 5
2 modules of Safrut (Literature)
You also have a choice of studying other subjects like geography, communications chemistry, biology etc. in which you need to get a minimum of 5 additional units.
The Bagrut examinations have great implications for the individual's future. In Israel, acceptance into elite military units, academic studies, and employment are heavily influenced by your Bagrut certificate and your scores/marks.
The score/mark recorded for the pupil in each of the subjects, included in his/her Bagrut certificate, is the average of the grade fixed by his/her high school and the grade received on the final examination as set and graded by the Ministry of Education.
Vocational and agricultural high schools offer diplomas that allow you to continue in technical or engineering fields but without the matriculation exam.
Children with learning issues are encouraged to take a psycho-didactic evaluation. The results of the evaluation will ensure that certain allowances be made in the students favor during an exam; overlooking spelling mistakes, giving extra time, use of a calculator, oral exams etc.
There are various bagrut options and programs for students with special needs. Check this out as not all of the programs are offered in all of the high-schools.
If you were unable to pass the minimum number of modules in order to get your bagrut certificate, you will be able to repeat some of the subjects at a later stage.
Unlike schools in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Australia there is no prefect system in Israeli schools whatsoever.
Again, unlike in the U.K., South Africa and Australia, except for a couple of hours a week of compulsory Physical Training, there is no competitive sports within the schools. No football teams, athletics, swimming etc. - so no swimming galas, sport's days etc.
"Prize Giving" for academic achievement is not common in Israeli Schools and the system of the "Colors" awards exist.
What is the attitude of the principal and the teachers? Are they supportive and encouraging, dogmatic and demanding? Check out discipline issues - Israel schools are known to be lax in this regard. Are there other English speaking children in the school or in the class? Will there be extra help for your child, a special class or tutor? What about private, extra lessons (between 75 – 150 shekels per lesson)?. The bottom-line (tach'lis) is that you cannot assume anything about the school. Whether it be a religious school or a secular one, It may or may not be a perfect fit for your child. That is something that you have to determine and solve on your own. There is no right or wrong answer to any of the issues raised here. There are a number of English forums and message boards in Israel, become a member prior to your Aliyah. Ask questions, get opinions, read and research. Whatever your final decision, we hope the high-school experience will be a positive one for you and your child.
Useful Contact Numbers
The Ministry of EducationTel: 02-560 22222 Rechov Devorah, Jerusalem