An overview of elementary, middle-school & high-school in Israel.
The Ministry of Education (Misrad HaChinuch) is responsible for determining and implementing education policies and for overseeing state, state religious and independent education systems.
Types of schools in Israel
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
The academic year
In Israel the school’s academic year begins on 1 September. The academic year comes to an end on 30th June in elementary schools and middle schools and high schools end their academic year on 20th June.
Primary School or Elementary School
Primary or elementary school is from grades one through to grade six; approximately ages 6-12.
A ‘moadonit’ is an after school program that children can attend and it also includes a meal. There is an additional fee for this. This can also be referred to as a “tzaharon”. This gives working parents a professionally supervised solution for the care of their young children in the afternoons.
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 subjects are studied in modules and a student requires at least 21 modules to get a ‘bagrut’ – Israel matriculation certificate. If your child was unable to pass the minimum number of modules in order to get their bagrut certificate, they are given two opportunities to repeat those the subjects later on in the year – this is referred to as “Mo-ed Bet” (the second opportunity) and “Mo-ed Gimmel” (the third opportunity). If they are still unsuccessful then they will have to complete their bagrut at a private college in their own time and at their own expense.
School uniforms in Israel
Most schools in Israel have a basic school uniform. The uniform is much more casual than the uniforms worn in the U.K., South Africa and Australia.
- The summer uniform in most state schools consists of a T-shirt and pants for both boys and girls. The shirts can be any of the colors as stipulated by the school. Usually there is a wide range. Each school l has its own emblem. 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 T-shirt from them. Generally shorts, pants and trousers are black or blue. Each school has its own special uniform requirement for physical training (chinuch gufani) – generally a yellow, blue or white T-shirt. All school-children are required to have a white shirt – ‘chultza levana’ – for assemblies, ceremonies and other special events.
- The winter 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. Hoodies are allowed. Each school has a winter version of the uniform for physical training. Again a white sweatshirt is required for assemblies, ceremonies and other special events.
- State religious and Haredi schools have their own dress-codes too where the dress code usually includes a plain white buttoned-shirt and black trousers for boys and a cotton, buttoned-shirt and black skirt for girls.
Most schools encourage the individuality of students and have their own level of leniency with regard to the uniform. High schools are more lenient than elementary schools however, certain items of clothing like mid-riff tops and mini skirts. High school boys in state schools are allowed to have beards
For many reasons, not all 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 in comparison to school uniforms abroad, it is very frustrating when an item gets lost.
Children with learning issues are encouraged to take a psycho-didactic evaluation – an ‘ivchun’. The results of the evaluation will determine whether certain allowances – ‘hakalot’ – need to be made in the students favor during an exam; overlooking spelling mistakes, giving extra time, use of a calculator, oral exams etc. There are also ‘hakalot’ for oleh children as well.
A Prefect System
Unlike schools that are or were part of the British Commonwealth; the United Kingdom, South Africa, Zimbabwe 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 state schools. No football teams, athletics, swimming etc. – so there are no swimming galas or sports days. Any sporting or extra curricular activity is at the parent’s own expense.
“Prize Giving” for academic achievement is not common in Israeli schools and the system of the “Colors” awards does not exist.
Yes, home-schooling is possible in Israel and there is a growing trend in Israel to home school children.
In 2009 the Ministry of Education released guidelines for receiving permission to homeschool.
You need permission from the Ministry of Education for each child you wish to home-school.
What is the attitude of the principal and the teachers? Are they supportive and encouraging, dogmatic or demanding? Check out discipline issues – Israel schools can 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? Expect to pay between 75 – 150 shekels for a private lesson.
The bottom-line (Heb: tachlis) 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 – start with Facebook. Ask questions, get opinions, read and research. Whatever your final decision, we hope the school experience will be a positive one for you and your child.
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. These are some things you might want to consider.
- 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 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?
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.
Matters for consideration
- 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?
Knowing the Hebrew language is the first step towards integration. Having a tutor, attending Hebrew-school or a Jewish day school and developing some language skills prior to Aliyah, helps tremendously. 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, and your child’s desire to remain behind, could in effect, split the entire family.
Your child will be required to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. 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.
International Schools in Israel
Find our more about international schools in Israel for students who prefer not to follow the general Israeli school system…
My son had a tough time. I was recently divorced and I decided to make a fresh start. I left Canada and made Aliyah. Evan was 15 when we arrived. He had just completed the 9th grade in Toronto. He went to a municipal school in Haifa – one with a good reputation and with lots of other immigrant children. From day one it was traumatic. He had to repeat the 9th grade and he was angry about that. Worst of all he did not integrate with the other children. At the end of the academic year, we moved (re-zoned) so that he could attend a semi-private school in Haifa. He made friends there but struggled to keep up academically. He had a block about speaking Hebrew. After a lot of deliberation, I sent him to the International School where he was a boarder. It was easier for him as the curriculum was in English and he made friends too. After half a year or so, he stopped going to class altogether. He came back home and never went to school again. He is nearly finished the army and now I am faced with the prospect of sending him to a private college to get his bagrut. As a single mother the expense of his education has been enormous. If I could do it over again, I would have waited until he had finished school before making Aliyah.
Useful Contact InformationThe Ministry of EducationTel: 02-560 2222Tel: 1-800-250-0252 Rechov Devorah, Jerusaleminfo@education.gov.ilMatriculation DepartmentTel: 02-560248929 Rechov Shivtei Yisrael, JerusalemOpen line for studentsTel: 1-800-222-003Teen to Teen An online magazine, including chat rooms and advice for teens that have moved to Israel – www.ttt.org.ilElem – Association for at Risk Youthwww.elem.org.ilTel: 03-7686666Al Sam – Anti Drug Use Organizationwww.alsam.org.ilTel: 1-700-505-055
Emergency numbers and resources for children
Listening Ear for Children
Rape Crisis Center & Sexual Abuse
1202 – Women / 1203 – Men
- Emergency services and contact telephone numbers
- More about Israel’s education system
- From ‘Aleph – Taf’ Hebrew learning resources