Israel: The Education System

January 1st, 2013

Israeli Education System

According to the 1949 Compulsory Education Law, the State of Israel is responsible for providing free compulsory education for children between the ages of 3 and 15, through grade 10.(1)The Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sport (comprised of a number of divisions, each responsible for the development of a particular element of the education system), the Ministry of Science and Technology, as well as the local municipalities administer and finance the education system.(2)

Israel has four separate school systems. In response to the needs of the different types of resident populations:  Arab and Druze; public; private and; religious. Arab and Druze schools offer instruction in Arabic and lessons about their respective religion, history, and cultures. The public school curriculum includes courses on Judaism, Biblical studies, culture, history, citizenship, and Arabic and Hebrew language. Private schools typically operate under a variety of specific religious or international auspices and religious schools focus on Jewish religious and Bible studies.

The Religious Education Administration

The Religious Education Administration operates according to the principle that “state religious education encourages involvement and affiliation with the State of Israel and Israeli society.”(3) The administration is responsible for the formulation of policies and programs for the religious education system, and for providing services to parents and students who elect to pursue state religious education. It balances the demand for traditional-religious and Zionist education, with the demand for religious pluralism, in order to create an educational system that is broadly acceptable and appropriate. The Religious Education Administration is also responsible for the quality of teaching in the state religious schools, providing support for new immigrants, students from low-income neighborhoods, and development towns.

The Cultural Administration

The Cultural Administration is responsible for all activities related to culture, art, and Biblical culture. The division’s objectives include: the promotion of original art; the encouragement of public involvement in art and culture; and the dissemination of art and culture throughout the country, in the school systems and beyond. The Cultural Administration also ensures the freedom of artistic creation and performance.

The Science and Technology Administration

The Science and Technology Administration is responsible for the promotion of science and technology within the education system, and for preparing relevant curricula and study materials. The administration also equips and maintains science laboratories in schools and learning centers around the country.

The Sports and Physical Education Authority

The Sports and Physical Education Authority is meant to encourage excellence in sport, and inclusion of sport in daily life. It is responsible for physical education instruction within the education system. General physical education is part of weekly activities in all schools. Some schools and many sports centers benefit from swimming, dance and other sport instruction, as well. The Sports and Physical Education Authority coordinates sports teams, courses, and competitions, and maintains a special school for the development of sports-gifted students. It also provides for the development and maintenance of sports facilities, sports instructors, and coaches.

Educational Television Network

The Ministry of Education also sponsors an Educational Television Network (ETV), for which it produces and broadcasts scholastic programs for use in formal education, as well as for general public consumption. These programs include enrichment for pre-school children, entertainment for youth of all ages, and educational programs targeted for a variety of segments of Israeli society.  ETV also develops programs related to issues and events on the national public agenda. It is broadcast on two channels six days a week, for approximately ten hours each day.(4)

Critiques of the Israeli Education System

The Israeli education system faces a number of challenges, in terms of the quality of primary and secondary education, equity of educational opportunities for Jewish and non-Jewish citizens, and the availability of necessary resources for improvement, financial and otherwise. Below is an article that addresses some of these challenges and pursuits for new initiatives and reform.

From the U.S. Library of Congress:

For further information about the Israeli education system:

Higher Education

Higher education has played a significant role in Israel since before the foundation of the State. The Technion Institute of Technology in Haifa, now a world-renowned university, was opened in 1924 to train engineers and architects. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem was founded in 1925 as a center of higher education to attract students and scholars from around the world. Today, the higher education system in Israel includes universities, colleges that provide bachelor-degree level education only, regional colleges, and vocational schools.

Most Israeli students begin their college or university studies between the ages of 20-24, after they have completed the compulsory military service. In 2003, women constituted 56.5 % of all students.(5)

First-year University Students by Field of Study (2002/2003)

The Council for Higher Education (CHE) is the licensing and accrediting authority for higher education in Israel. Led by the Minister of Education, it includes academics, community, and student representatives who are appointed by the President.

According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs spotlight on education in Israel,

“The Council is empowered by law to advise the government on the development and financing of higher education and scientific research. Its Planning and Budgeting Committee submits the ordinary and development budgets for higher education to the government; allocates the global approved ordinary and development of higher education, including financing; and ensures that the budgets of the institutions are balanced. In addition, it encourages efficiency in higher education institutions and coordinates between them.”

The Universities

As with universities around the world, universities in Israel support both research and teaching. The majority of basic research in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities is carried out within Israeli universities. Israel hosts eight major public universities, which serve as the centers of research, in addition to their stature as institutions of higher education. Almost all public universities grant bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in a number of fields.(6)

The Universities in Israel include:

  • Bar-Ilan University (est. 1955 in Ramat Gan)
    Bar Ilan University is known for its resources to support active engagement in the study of traditional Jewish texts and practices, as well as scientific and academic research. Its faculties also include a diverse array of fields in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, mathematics, and computer science.
  • Ben Gurion University of the Negev (est. 1964)
    The scholarship at Ben Gurion University reflects its desert setting, bringing a high academic level of study to the once barren region of the country. Areas of specialty include community medicine, arid zone research, and resources related to the vision that Israel’s future lay in this region that was held by David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister.
  • Hebrew University of Jerusalem (est. 1925)
    The Hebrew University is world-renowned for research in Jewish studies, Arabic and Islamic studies, and biblical and post-biblical archaeology. Hebrew University houses Israel’s National Library, and hosts a diverse range of faculties, including zoology, biomedical research, law, and history, to name a few.
  • Open University
    The Open University is open to all students who wish to study. It accepts those who choose to follow either a full course-load or one class at a time. Students are not required to enroll in a certain faculty, but rather, study on a course-by-course basis.
  • Tel Aviv University (est. 1956)
    Research at Tel Aviv University currently focuses on subjects such as electronic devices, systems engineering, nuclear research, petroleum and energy, computer science, superconductivity, solid state and theoretical physics, nature conservation and more.
  • The Technion - Israel Institute of Technology (est. 1924 in Haifa)
    Israel’s technological university, the Technion ranks among the leading institutions of its kind in the Western world. Its students and faculty carry out research in engineering, mathematics, the natural sciences and more.
  • University of Haifa (est. 1963)
    Emphasis is placed on an integrative approach to research, as well as cooperation and understanding between Arabs and Jews. Faculties include information processing, the Holocaust, Zionism, archaeology, maritime research, and alternatives in education.
  • Weizmann Institute of Science (est. 1934 in Rehovot)
    The Weizmann Institute of Science is a research institution of international repute. The work of its students, faculty, and researchers includes the newest techniques in science. Recent studies have addressed the immune system, water resource expansion, plant genetics, cell studies, magnetism, lasers, holography, and many other subjects.

Vocational Colleges

There are nearly thirty institutions in Israel that fall under the category of vocational schools, offering professional training in fields of study that include electronics, biotechnology, optometry, insurance, education, art and design, and others.

Internationally recognized vocational schools include the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, the Shenkar Institute of Textile and Fashion, the Hadassah College of Technology, and the Wingate Institute.

  • The Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, located in Jerusalem, offers bachelor degrees in fine arts, architecture, and graphic and industrial design.
  • Located in Ramat Gan, the Shenkar Institute of Textile and Fashion offers degrees in both technical and design aspects of the fashion industry.
  • The Hadassah College of Technology offers courses in computer science, industrial design, hotel management, and medical technology. It confers degrees in both scientific and technical fields.
  • The Wingate Institute, located in Netanya, specifically trains teachers and professionals in physical education, athletics, sports medicine, and bio-physics.

Regional Colleges

Whereas in the United States it is very common for students to attend college or university very far from where they otherwise live, in Israel, many individuals prefer to stay closer to home. As a result, regional colleges were founded with the intention of providing education for individuals who lived far from the major university centers, and residents of kibbutzim. Today, however, they are attended by many of Israel’s new immigrants and have therefore contributed a significant part of the immigrant absorption into the educational system.

In the past, regional colleges typically did not confer degrees, but rather, served as a 2 year starting point for students who then went on to complete a degree at a full degree-granting institution. A number of these colleges, however, have recently attained accreditation from the Council of Higher Education to offer independent, degree-granting programs.

For Further Information on Higher Education:

Embassy of Israel in Washington DC, on Higher Education

Additional Links from the Israeli Ministry of Education: