100. Education System in Israel

We have seen the progress achieved by Israel when it comes to the fields of building development towns, deserting farming, water management, alternative water sources, fish farming and aquaculture as we move ahead witnessing the journey of Israel, full of untiring efforts, from being an underdeveloped country to a developed nation. However, these are the fundamental areas necessary for Israel to maintain its existence. Nevertheless, in today’s world, while measuring the degree to which a country has developed, the mainly vetted factors include its education system, arts, sports, culture, science, technology, economy, military strength, etc.!

Israel achieved success in the before-mentioned fundamental areas despite having to struggle hard; they were necessary for Israel as the basis of its existence as a ‘nation’. At the same time, it did not overlook the factors cited above that determine the development of a nation as they were needed by it to progress as a ‘society’. Thus, we need to consider these factors as we read about Israel as a matter of course. Let us begin with the education system in Israel.

Before we start with the topic, we must remember that Israel is a ‘Jewish state’. Of course, every action of this nation is for the welfare and progress of the Jews, and the education system in Israel is no exception to it. The education system here is devised in such a way that along with imparting the knowledge necessary for worldly life, every new generation is infused with the Jewish beliefs and made to understand the long and glorious history of the Jews. It is done so that they feel the love and are proud of the Jewish culture.

The aforesaid is about today’s time. However, when Israel achieved independence, like all other fields, the field of education also faced enormous challenges. It was because the pace of Jewish immigration was very high. It made the number of Jews settled in Israel for many generations compared to the number of the immigrant Jews returning from across the world to Israel look meagre.

As seen earlier, the immigrant Jews had lived for generations in various parts of the world they respectively came from. Though they followed the Jewish religion and its principles, tenets, etc., they had in them the local cultures, customs and traditions. Many from the young generation did not have even the introductory knowledge of the Hebrew language.

Israel faced a mammoth challenge of assimilating and homogenizing millions of Jews who had emigrated from no less than 70 countries. Though they came from diverse cultural backgrounds, they had to be ultimately moulded into being ‘Israelis’. Israel surmounted the challenge successfully but what was so special about it is Israel did it in so less time.

Even in the pre-independence days, during the days of ‘British Mandate Palestine’, schools were very much there in Israel. However, most of the schools were run by some Jewish leader or group adhering to various branches of Judaism like Orthodox Judaism, Zionism, Moderate Religious Zionism, Socialist Zionism, Haredi Judaism, etc. Consequently, they propagated their respective ideologies through the school curriculums, for example, the schools run by the Haredi Jew leaders laid focus on the detailed study of the ‘Torah’ or the ‘Hebrew Bible’. Moreover, parents who identified themselves with a particular branch of Judaism would admit their wards to the schools which propagated their ideological teachings.

A Hebrew school

However, after Israel achieved independence, the curriculums across all the schools were much regularized, yet the schools with leanings to the aforementioned branches do exist. The medium of instruction is ‘Hebrew’, and every school teaches the language as a subject. Very few schools impart education in English or Arabic medium. Children from the Arab families in Israel predominantly take education at the Arabic medium schools while children of foreign diplomats or other foreigners working in Israel prefer the English medium schools.

The school education is subdivided into primary (1st to 6th class), secondary (7th to 9th class) and high school (10th to 12th class). Education till Class 12 is subsidized and mandatory for all. However, in the entire school life, an examination is conducted only once, for passing Class 12. As a result of compulsory education, there are hardly any uneducated Jews in Israel.

Specialized short-term courses are organized at schools for the children of immigrant Jews and also for the immigrant teachers, not versed with the Jewish history or not conversant with the Hebrew language. Also, for the teachers to update their knowledge in their respective subjects, resources are made available to them and they are also provided encouragement.

Science and technology-based businesses are increasingly driving the Israeli economy. Most of the Israelis are convinced that good education is necessary to stay competitive in such a marketplace. As a result, the Israelis try their level best to give higher education to their children and add to it; at times they even pinch their bellies to arrange for it. Currently, there are eight major government universities which are primarily based out of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the Negev. In addition to it, there are a few private and foreign universities as well.

Tel Aviv University campus

For the students not much interested in rote, institutional learning, facilities for vocational courses are also available after they complete ‘compulsory schooling’. Such courses train the students as mechanics, electricians, hairstylists, etc. Besides, the Israeli Ministry of Education operated the ‘Israeli Educational Television’ that broadcasted educational programs for school children. Moreover, documentaries imparting knowledge of various subjects are telecasted for adults and professionals.

A Vocational Education class in Israel

Most importantly, after passing Class 12 and before entering college, ‘military conscription’ of 3 years, 2 years for females, is mandatory for every Jewish citizen. The students who undergo such military training and conscription are given a bumper concession, of about 90 per cent, in the tuition fees for their first-year college.

Israel also has ‘boarding schools’, and they are one of the special facilities of the Israeli education system. In most of the countries, the children of the rich attend the boarding schools. However, in Israel, it is exactly the opposite. The boarding schools in Israel are for the students who come from a weak financial background. The Israeli government bears the expenses.

A boarding school in Israel

Thus, the education system of Israel aims to imbibe social values in children and make good citizens out of them. It also strives to develop various technological skills in the students and also teach them Jewish culture and traditions. Thus, the education system imparts the knowledge that will foster Jewish national pride in their minds.

Israel has understood the importance of education for its citizens and the development of the nation. It thus spends an amount of more than 7.3% of its annual GDP (Gross Domestic Products) in the education sector. This figure exceeds the spending on education by several other countries of the world. Hence, one must not forget that the education system in Israel has the lion’s share in its successful financial striding.(To be continued…)

– Shulamith Penkar-Nigrekar

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