Land of Israel: Education

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1880–1914. Education in the small yishuv, which numbered about 25,000 in 1880, largely resembled the traditional types prevailing in Jewish communities elsewhere. The Jews of East European origin maintained the traditional ḥeder, talmud torah, and yeshivah, where Yiddish was the language of instruction; the Sephardi and Oriental Jews sent their boys to the kutub, where they studied in Ladino or Arabic. A little Hebrew was taught, mostly as the sacred tongue. Few girls, if any, attended the schools. Several attempts to establish modern schools were made in the second half of the 19th century. In 1856 the Laemel School was founded in Jerusalem by a wealthy Austrian Jewish family to provide secular and religious education in German; its "modernity" aroused much opposition. In 1864 the Evelina de Rothschild School for girls was opened in Jerusalem; in the 1870s it was transferred to the ownership of the *Anglo-Jewish Association, changing its medium of instruction from French to English. In 1870 the *Alliance Israélite Universelle established the first agricultural school in the country – *Mikveh Israel.

The Philanthropic School Systems

Toward the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th, a number of schools were established by European Jewish philanthropic organizations, while the Anglo-Jewish Association continued to expand the Evelina de Rothschild School. The Alliance Israélite Universelle established schools using French as the medium of instruction in Jerusalem, Jaffa, Tiberias, and Safed, and later in Haifa. The German-Jewish *Hilfsverein der Deutschen Juden (known as Ezra), formed in 1901, soon outdid the Alliance: by 1913 it was maintaining 27 schools in the country, ranging from a kindergarten to a teachers' training college. German was the chief language of instruction, but Hebrew was being taught by competent teachers. The *Jewish Colonization Association (ica) maintained some of the schools in the villages, and early in the 20th century the Ḥovevei Zion in Russia helped to support some educational institutions.

Hebrew Education

The First Aliyah (see *Israel, State of: Historical Survey, section Modern Aliyah, 1880–1948), in the 1880s, brought to the newly established villages, as well as to Jerusalem and Jaffa, Jews who believed in a national revival and wanted Hebrew to be the language of instruction in the schools they established for their children. In the early 1880s, Eliezer *Ben-Yehuda started teaching Hebrew as a modern language in an Alliance school in Jerusalem. Other teachers bravely ventured into new territory by teaching arithmetic, geography, and other subjects in Hebrew, undertaking the difficult task of devising terminologies and preparing textbooks as they went along. It was in the new villages that Hebrew teaching and Hebrew speech in daily life spread more quickly. Young teachers fired by Ben Yehuda's example taught Hebrew as a living tongue in the village schools, and general subjects were also taught in Hebrew. The establishment of Hebrew kindergartens – the first in *Rishon le-Zion in 1898 – contributed greatly to the spread of spoken Hebrew at home and in the street.

The Second Aliyah, which started in 1904, gave a further impetus to the growth and extension of Hebrew education. In 1906 a group of young teachers, aided by the Ḥovevei Zion in Russia, established in Jaffa the first Hebrew secondary school, the Gymnasia Herzlia, which moved to Tel Aviv in 1909. This daring venture roused enthusiasm in the country and among Zionists abroad, especially in Russia, hundreds of whom sent their children to study in it. In 1908 the Hebrew Secondary School was founded in Jerusalem, and in 1913 the Reali Secondary School was opened in Haifa. In 1906 the *Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts, the first essay in secondary vocational education, was established in Jerusalem.

The Teachers' Association

There was a growing need for some national body to give guidance to individual teachers and schools in methodology and terminology, syllabuses and curricula. Toward the end of the 19th century, in the absence of an organized Jewish community in the Land of Israel, the Hebrew teachers made several attempts to organize themselves. In 1903 Menaḥem *Ussishkin, on a mission to the country on behalf of Ḥovevei Zion, convened a conference of teachers at Zikhron Ya'akov, which laid the foundation for the Hebrew *Teachers' Association. This association, especially in its early years, did a great deal to strengthen Hebrew education, drawing up syllabuses, publishing textbooks and educational material for teachers, improving the status of teachers, and organizing refresher courses and in-service training. It exercised many functions that were later assumed by the organized community, and, after 1948, by Israel's Ministry of Education and Culture.

The constantly growing importance of Hebrew in education, as well as the strength of the Teachers' Association, became apparent in the autumn of 1913, during what was known as the "*Language War." The question arose as to what language should be used in the technical institute (Technikum) due to be opened in Haifa. The institution, sponsored by the Hilfsverein, was financed by contributions from its own funds, Zionist sources, and American Jewish donors. The Hilfsverein insisted that German be used, whereupon the Zionist members of the institute, headed by *Aḥad Ha-Am, resigned and a storm of protest swept the yishuv. The teachers rose up in arms: most of those in the Hilfsverein schools resigned, and their association, with the assistance of Zionist bodies, opened 11 parallel Hebrew schools, creating the nucleus of a national Hebrew school system headed by a board of education. The "Language Conflict" marked the beginning of the end of the Hilfsverein's educational work in the Land of Israel; when the country was conquered by the British in 1917–18, their schools, being enemy (German) property, were handed over by the military authorities to the Zionist Organization.

under british rule (1918–1948)

Development of a National System

During the 30 years of British rule in Palestine, a Jewish school system was created and developed mainly by the efforts of the Jewish community itself. Throughout the period there were two parallel school systems, Arab and Jewish. The Arab school system was taken over by the British authorities from the Turkish rulers, substituting Arabic for Turkish as the medium of instruction, and was maintained mainly by the government. These schools were attended largely by Muslim children, Christian Arab children receiving their education mostly in denominational or missionary schools. The Jewish schools were by and large the responsibility of the Jewish community, although some of them were private or were supported by Jewish bodies abroad. The Mandatory government's Department of Education, which fully controlled the Arab school system, maintained only nominal supervision over the Jewish schools. There was no law of compulsory education during the Mandatory period, and only about half the Arab children attended school for four years or more. The Jewish community, however, succeeded in providing almost universal schooling for its children. The Jewish school population grew almost tenfold during the Mandatory period and totaled nearly 100,000 in 1948.

From the Jewish Agency to the Va'ad Le'ummi

The Jewish national school system, born in 1914 after the "Language Conflict," was administered by a Jewish Board of Education, which controlled some 40 kindergartens and schools by 1918 and over 100 in 1920. From the beginning of the 1920s the Zionist Executive (from 1929 the *Jewish Agency) maintained and administered these schools. At first it contributed some 90% of the cost and aimed at bringing all the Jewish schools under its management. Before long, however, financial difficulties forced the Zionist Executive to curtail its educational budget, which was constantly reduced and by 1932 was only 42% of the system's expenditure.

Gradually, the financial responsibility for the maintenance of kindergartens passed into the hands of local bodies; secondary schools mostly fended for themselves by introducing high tuition fees, and the vocational schools secured assistance either locally (for example from the *Histadrut) or from Jewish bodies outside the country, such as *ort and *wizo. The Zionist Executive's financial responsibility was limited mainly to the elementary schools and the teachers' training colleges. Not infrequently, financial difficulties caused delays in the payment of salaries to teachers, which brought about teachers' strikes, sometimes for several weeks.

The view gained ground, in Zionist circles as well as in the yishuv itself, that the financial and educational responsibility for the school system ought to be transferred to the organized Jewish community in Palestine. In the later 1920s the Jewish population gradually assumed greater financial responsibility for the education of its children, both by paying tuition fees and by self-taxation. It was therefore accepted as a logical and natural development that control of Jewish education in the Land of Israel was formally transferred, in the autumn of 1932, from the Jewish Agency to the *Va'ad Le'ummi, the Jewish National Council. The Jewish Agency continued to be represented on the governing body of the educational system and to contribute annually to its budget, although its share in the late 1930s was less than 8% of the total.

Administration of the Jewish National School System

In the years 1932–48, the national school network continued to expand under the control of the Va'ad Le'ummi, despite the general weakness of its authority and the poverty of the financial resources it could devote to education. Another factor contributing to the lack of unity in the educational system was the growing assumption of responsibility for the control of education by the Jewish local authorities and especially by the political parties and bodies, through the "educational trends" (see below). Four bodies were involved in the administration of the Jewish national system of education in this period: the Va'ad Le'ummi, which exercised supreme authority over major policy and approval of budgets; the executive committee of the school system, which took administrative and financial decisions – it had six members: three, including the director of Jewish education, appointed by the Va'ad Le'ummi, and one representative each of the Jewish Agency, the Tel Aviv municipality, and the central administration of the Jewish settlements; the Education Committee (Va'ad ha-Hinnukh), appointed biennially by the Va'ad Le'ummi, consisting of 13 members representing various political and educational trends (including three teachers and one person nominated by the Hebrew University), which dealt with educational matters and functioned only in an advisory capacity; and the Department of Education, consisting of the director of education and the chief inspectors of the three "educational trends," which was the executive body administering the current work of the school system.

The School System: Structure and Content

The Jewish school system in the Land of Israel in 1918–48 included kindergartens, elementary and secondary schools, and teacher-training colleges. The kindergartens, for the three-to-five age group, were highly popular and well developed. Most of them were maintained by local authorities and women's voluntary organizations; others were run privately by their teachers. They fulfilled an important social function by enabling mothers to go out to work as well as the educational function of preparing the children for school. Moreover, they played a significant part in welding together the heterogeneous Jewish population, with its divergencies of language, culture, and modes of life. The toddlers introduced the Hebrew language into their homes, as well as often unfamiliar habits of hygiene and the taste for new foods. In its own special way the kindergarten became an important instrument of adult education in the broadest sense, particularly among the mothers. Elementary schools, consisting of eight grades, were attended between the ages of 6 and 14. They were open six days a week, the first four grades studying four hours daily, and the higher grades five to six hours, in one session. Schools in the kibbutzim had both morning and afternoon sessions. From the very beginning, Jewish educators had to cope with the difficult task of coordinating and integrating Hebrew and general subjects in the curriculum. About one-third of teaching time was devoted to Hebrew subjects, which included on the average four to five periods of Bible a week in all grades. The rest of the time was devoted to general subjects, including arithmetic, history, geography, science, art, singing, physical education, handicrafts, gardening, and in the four upper classes, English. In the religious schools more periods were devoted to Hebrew subjects.

Most of the Jewish secondary schools followed the Central European pattern. They comprised 12 years of study, the first eight of which paralleled the elementary school. As they charged considerable tuition fees, attendance was restricted, and many pupils joined them only in the ninth year of study, after completing eight grades in the elementary schools. Although financially independent of the Va'ad Le'ummi, the secondary schools accepted its educational supervision and presented all their graduates for final examinations conducted by its Department of Education. These examinations were responsible for the development of a more or less uniform curriculum for Jewish secondary schools throughout the country. The kibbutzim and moshavim, however, maintained their own secondary school system which did not prepare its pupils for final examinations or diplomas. These secondary schools also combined Jewish and general studies. In the two upper classes, pupils could choose between programs emphasizing humanistic or scientific studies. In addition to English, they had to take a second foreign language: Arabic or French.

The teacher-training colleges were usually based on five or six years' study, the first three or four paralleling the upper grades of the secondary schools and the last two offering mainly pedagogical training. One section trained kindergarten teachers and the other elementary school teachers. Secondary school teachers were usually university trained.

The Va'ad Le'ummi controlled, financially or educationally, two-thirds of the Jewish schools in the country. The rest were very varied: eight Alliance Israélite Universelle schools with about 3,000 pupils, where Hebrew and French were the media of instruction; the Evelina de Rothschild School in Jerusalem, with Hebrew and English as languages of instruction; a number of vocational schools maintained by voluntary bodies; talmud torah institutions and yeshivot of the Orthodox religious type, some using Yiddish; and the nucleus of a network of Orthodox elementary schools controlled by *Agudat Israel. In addition, both the *Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the *Technion opened their gates for regular studies in 1925 as autonomous institutions.

The Educational "Trends."

When the Va'ad Le'ummi assumed control of the national school system in 1932 it was already divided into three "trends": General, Mizrachi, and Labor. Between 1918 and 1920 the national school network was unified, but it included some schools, comprising about 20% of all the pupils, which were specifically religious in character. In 1920 the London Zionist Conference decided to recognize two categories of Jewish national schools in Palestine: schools of a general character, designated as belonging to the General Trend; and religious schools, which were included in the Mizrachi Trend, named after and affiliated to the religious Zionist movement.

The General Trend tried to combine national and general progressive values in its education. While maintaining a positive attitude toward Jewish religious tradition, it left religious observance to the individual pupils, in accordance with the desires of their parents. The schools of the Mizrachi Trend, while providing a general education, laid emphasis on religion, and their principals, inspectors, and teachers were observant Jews. In the early 1920s the Jewish labor settlements, both kibbutzim and moshavim, began to organize their own schools, which combined general education with labor ideology and new approaches to educational methods. Such schools were soon established by labor circles in towns as well, and in 1926 the Zionist Organization accorded them a recognized status as the Labor Trend, affiliated to the Histadrut, which by 1938 was included in the administrative network of the Va'ad Le'ummi education system. Each of the three trends, while forming part of the national system, enjoyed considerable autonomy in drawing up the curriculum and appointing teachers and inspectors. Each was led by a school council of ten to twelve members (including parents, teachers, and inspectors) headed by a chief inspector selected by the trend, who represented it in the Department of Education. The chief functions of the council were to protect the interests of the trend, nominate inspectors, hear their reports, and appoint representatives on various educational bodies. Toward the end of the Mandatory period, 53% of the pupils belonged to the General Trend, 24% to the Mizrachi, and 23% to the Labor Trend.

The Orthodox schools of Agudat Israel, as well as the yeshivot and other non-Mizrachi religious institutions, including those of the old yishuv, remained outside the national system and formed de facto a separate trend, in which secular subjects were eliminated or drastically reduced. Toward 1948 about half of them were maintained and controlled by Agudat Israel and the other half by the old yishuv and others. Together their pupils numbered about half as many as those in the Mizrachi schools.

While the variety of curricula and the freedom of each trend to try new experiments was all to the good, the splitting up of the national system into three separate groups, to a large extent separately administered, was not always beneficial to education, particularly since not only the Mizrachi and Labor trends were backed by political bodies but the General Zionist parties also assumed some sort of responsibility for the General Trend, and rivalry among the trends was sometimes instigated and abetted by the sponsoring parties. This situation became anomalous in the early years of statehood, when political parties supported "their" trends in an effort to attract more pupils from children of newly arrived immigrants who knew little or nothing about the differences between them, believing that by placing a child in one of the schools of its "trend" it would thereby also gain its parents' votes at election time.

Relations with the Mandatory Government

Up to 1922, the British administration gave no financial assistance to the Jewish schools in the country, which were considered "private schools." At first the Zionist Executive was satisfied with this situation, for many Jewish leaders and educators preferred to have an autonomous educational system, without government interference. The British administration, with limited resources at its disposal, was content to deal with the education of the Arab children; even then it could not meet more than about one-fifth of their needs. As the enrollment in Jewish schools grew and the Zionist Executive began to find it difficult to meet all its financial obligations to its education system, it requested the support of the British administration, which made small annual grants to the Jewish schools in the years 1922–26. The Jewish authorities asked for a grant based on the number of Jewish pupils at school and for an allocation per pupil equal to the cost of an Arab pupil in the government schools. The government objected, as this would have entailed allocating to the Jewish schools nearly half the educational budget, whereas the Arabs constituted about five-sixths of the population. In 1927 the government decided to allocate the money in proportion to the size of the Arab and Jewish populations. In 1933, it adopted a new formula, dividing the grant in proportion to the total numbers of Jewish and Arab children between the ages of five and fifteen in the country, as officially estimated. Thus, while government grants for education increased almost every year, they averaged only about 10% of the Jewish educational budget.

The Mandatory government's Education Ordinance of 1933, regularizing the administration of schools, recognized the Va'ad Le'ummi schools, heretofore technically "private," as "public." The ordinance referred to the "Hebrew Public System" as paralled to the "Arab Public System," which was under direct government control. When the government increased its grant to Jewish education in 1927, it insisted on formal approval of its budget, improvements in its administration, and the participation of a government representative in an advisory capacity on the executive committee of the Jewish national system. The government Department of Education, which had a small Jewish inspectorate for Jewish schools, interfered little in their affairs, although from time to time it offered suggestions for administrative and structural reforms. In 1945, at its initiative, a government commission was sent out from England to examine the administrative machinery of the Va'ad Le'ummi education system and its report, published in 1946, proposed far-reaching reforms. This report was still under discussion when the Mandate ended.

Budget and Finance

With the reduction in the contribution of the Jewish Agency to the maintenance of education, the yishuv itself had to assume ever greater financial responsibilities for the school system. While in the early 1920s it provided only 10–20% of the funds required, its share rose by 1933 to about 80%. A striking feature was the large percentage of school costs paid by parents. Only the kibbutzim and the moshavim provided free education. To these must be added the Tel Aviv community, which found it possible to abolish elementary school fees by defraying the cost of schooling out of the municipal budget. Only a small registration fee was demanded of parents and this, too, was remitted in whole or in part in needy cases.

On the Eve of the Establishment of the State of Israel

The Jewish national education system under British rule had many weaknesses: it controlled only 65% of the Jewish schools; it was never accorded full legal recognition; it constantly had to contend with financial difficulties; and the trend system enfeebled its administrative unity. Nevertheless, it not only grew tenfold during the period from 1918 to 1948 but also developed the attributes of a state system of education. The national system embraced kindergartens, elementary and secondary schools, trade and agricultural post-secondary institutions, and teacher-training colleges. It included special schools for handicapped children, school luncheons, health services, school clubs, and extracurricular activities. A great deal of attention was paid to curricula and methods of teaching. Rules were laid down for teachers' terms of service, and the Teachers' Association grew into a powerful professional body. In addition to the network of schools maintained or supported by the Va'ad Le'ummi, there were numerous private and semi-private schools, a system of evening schools for working youth maintained by the Histadrut, and a large number of evening courses for adults in which newcomers learned Hebrew and adults could pursue further knowledge in the sciences, humanities, and foreign languages. The State of Israel thus inherited a network of schools which could be easily converted into a state school system.

[Moshe Avidor]

In the State of Israel

The establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 greatly changed the country's Jewish community as well as the Zionist organization and movement. When Israel attained independence 650,000 Jews were living in Palestine and immediately masses of immigrants flooded the new state. In 44 months, up to the end of 1951, the pre-State Jewish community absorbed 684,000 new immigrants from 50 different countries – more people than its original number. First came about 300,000 Holocaust survivors from Europe and then mostly immigrants from Arab countries in Africa and Asia, some of them driven out of their homes and arriving with their entire communities. The total number of the latter reached 500,000 people before the end of the first decade of Israel's independence.

The population of immigrants consisted of mostly poor families with many children. This had a direct and strong impact on the educational system, since there was an intimate relationship between society and the schools: the educational system was oriented toward responding to the needs arising from social processes.

Formation of the Educational System in the Independent State of Israel

Most basic structural and normative characteristics of the Israeli educational system, still operative in the present day, were formed in the first years of the State's independent existence. The Compulsory Education Act was passed in 1949 and the State Education Act was enacted in 1953. During those years education in the newly established State was a matter of sharp political division and confrontation, the outcome of which determined the character and structure of the educational system in the coming years. The public and political debate found expression in issues of structure, authority, and procedures; however, its underlying motif was a struggle over the ongoing application of the "ideological socialization" approach. It meant that the educational system was to be used as means of socialization into the Zionist ideology, or, more precisely, the Zionist ideology as interpreted by the ruling elite.

The Social and Political Atmosphere of the First Years

Until 1953 Israel had four separate educational systems affiliated with different sectors. That was the legacy that pre-independence Jewish society in Palestine brought into the sovereign State of Israel. The social and political atmosphere in which the ideologically divided system operated had, however, changed. The mass immigration brought in tens of thousands of children whose education had to be administered by the State. The establishment of state administration caused the different parties to fight for government power positions and struggles of the same nature intensified among the educational sectors. The major issue was who would educate the new immigrant children, with each ideological-political party striving to bring more children into its education system. The power struggles over education of the immigrant children were very sharp, often deteriorating to violence, and even brought about appointment of a State investigation committee. The first elected government in Israel fell over this issue; in all those squabbles, however, the preferences of the children's parents were the last to be heard.

Alongside the ideological-political rush for power positions in the state administration a new school of thought emerged at the time, closely associated with the personal and strong leadership of the first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. This school of thought asserted that the sovereign state as a modern democracy should monopolize authority over certain particularly important functions: the armed forces, and education of the young toward becoming future members of society. This doctrine, which came to be called "Sovereignty" (the Hebrew term "Mamlakhti'ut" being a derivative of "melekh," a sovereign king), was applied very strenuously by Ben-Gurion in the organization of the armed forces. He intended to do the same in the educational system, in view of the enormous task of educating the large masses of immigrant children who now populated the country.

This educational philosophy is closely related to the "melting pot" philosophy for absorbing waves of immigration. It asserted that new immigrants should go through a process of re-socialization, at the end of which they would become absorbed in the native society as equal members of the Israeli collective. The educational meaning of this philosophy coincided with the "sovereign" state-organized educational system. It claimed that only the state can educate immigrant children to become well integrated as its future citizens, and not their parents, whose integration in a new country is far more difficult, burdened with economic and other survival problems. Another product of the "educating state" idea was to hold the value of patriotism higher than all others.

The Compulsory Education Act

The first statutory change was the Mandatory Education Act adopted by the Knesset on September 21, 1949. It fixed nine years as the length of compulsory education between the ages of 5 and 13, i.e., one year of kindergarten and eight years of elementary schooling. It established that those years of education would be free for all children, and that children would be able to enroll in any of the four segmented educational networks approved by the Ministry of Education. Proponents of the unified national education system claimed that that legislation fostered the disintegration of society into ideological-political factions, as it obligated all parents to enroll their children in one of the four ideological-political networks of schools. Indeed, the immediate effect of the Compulsory Education Act was conflicts between the different networks over enrollment of children in their schools. The law effectively stated that parents should make the decision which school their children would attend free of any coercion or enticement. In practice, however, many complaints were filed in the Ministry of Education, against the "Workers Education Network" operators in particular, regarding cases of pressure, threats, extortion, and enticement of principals and parents with the aim of getting them to transfer children into schools of a particular network of educational institutions.

The Compulsory Education Act stated that it would not be applied in the transit camps (*ma'barot) of new immigrants, but that the minister of education would be authorized to make the education arrangements there. In the immigrant camps a separate educational system was established, called "Uniform Education." The Uniform Education schools intended to give immigrant children a general education with a political or cultural orientation. They followed the "melting pot" philosophy, which had as its aim the melding of immigrants into one social and cultural fabric.

The National Education Act

Prior to the 1951 general elections the dominant and ruling party, *Mapai, proposed to dismantle the segmented education networks and institute a single national system that would end the debate over the education of immigrant children once and for all. Mapai won the elections and some other political parties supported the idea of unified national education as well, but the National Education Act was ratified only two years after the elections, in August 12, 1953. It determined that the ideologically distinct school networks would be dismantled and in their place two educational systems would be instituted: National and National-Religious (as the religious parties demanded), and that the Agudat Israel (ultra-Orthodox) school sector would continue its independent existence with state funding while retaining its pedagogic and curricular autonomy.

The National Religious educational system was the direct descendant of the Mizrachi network and it incorporated also the institutions of the smaller Religious Worker sector. The National System was the unification of the Workers Education Network and the non-religious General Education Network, each of them losing its unique ideological character in the process.

establishing norms in the educational system

The right to free elementary education

In the first five years of Israel's independence a number of normative principles were established, and in the coming years they had a lasting effect on the educational system for better or for worse. The Compulsory Education Act institutionalized the right of all children in Israel to elementary education regardless of the economic conditions of their parents. In order to actualize this norm, the Compulsory Education Act encompassed two additional principles: state funding of education on the elementary level (a principle significantly eroded in later years) and legal authorization of the state to impose the compulsory education laws on reluctant parents. The Compulsory Education Act established the liberal social norms that contributed to the fact that the rate of illiteracy in Israel is among the world's lowest.

The educational system as an agent of national socialization

The objectives of the National Education Act were less social than national. It intended to enhance national solidarity in Israel and facilitate the cultural integration of the masses of new immigrants. That law fixed the responsibility of the state for the contents of education to ensure that they were compatible with the state's interests.

The educational system as agent of absorption of immigration

The social-political circumstances that surrounded the legislation of the National Education Act also established the principle by which the educational system serves as an agent of integration of Jewish immigration. The national interest, as represented by the parliamentary majority (the coalition government at the time) was well served by the law that ensured the state's control over the socialization of its new citizens, immigrants, and the young generation.

Additionally, the Labor Movement, the dominant element in the educational system, determined the content of the socialization processes that the immigrant children were made to experience. These contents promoted secularity, a negative outlook on galut (exile, Diaspora) existence, Western civilization ("modernity"), and socialism. The immigrants were placed in an inferior position relative to the native or veteran Israelis and were required to shed their old cultural skins and put on the new, better one. In terms of identity, the educational system presented an ideal Israeli model that was completely alien to most immigrants, and demanded of them to adapt. Paradoxically, the educational experience of new immigrants in Israel created a dichotomy: the educational system did indeed facilitate the integration of immigrant children into Israeli society but simultaneously created in them and in their parents residual layers of alienation.

Differentiation and gaps between immigrant and native-born children

The Compulsory Education Act had additional effects. As mentioned, one of its outcomes was the establishment of the "unified education" system in the immigrant camps, separate from the sectoral schools that existed at the time. This was the beginning of differentiation between immigrant children and native children in the educational system. That differentiation continued in the immigrant transit camps that were hastily constructed around the country. Geographic separation of the new immigrants caused separation and differentiation among schoolchildren too. New immigrants were then transferred to new housing units in proximity to old settlements, but even then schools were mostly separate or there were separate classes for immigrant children. In the 1951–52 school year, the educational system in Israel had 80,000 immigrant children; three out of four of them went to schools where all the students were new immigrants and another 9,000 attended separate classes for immigrant children in the General Education sector. The educational reality prevented all contact between new immigrant and native children in contrast to the "melting pot" ideal. The distinction between what has become known as "the First Israel" and "the Second Israel" was thus reinforced and perpetuated for years to come.

Differentiation and gaps between the Jewish and Arab educational systems

The principle of state-supervised compulsory and free education for all children had an impact on education in the Arab minority sector as well. At the outset of Israeli independence the Arab educational system was in very poor shape, with few educational institutions (under the British Mandate in Palestine many Arab children had studied at schools administered by the British). The Compulsory Education Act applied to the Arab minority sector brought tens of thousands of Arab children into the system, while the educational infrastructure of facilities, buildings, equipment, curricula, textbooks, and qualified teachers was very limited. The Compulsory Education Act was not fully applied within the Arab minority sector; many children were left out of school. The reasons for this were the poor conditions of learning and teaching facilities as well as difficulties in administering the education tax.

The institutionalized centrality of Zionist socialization in the national educational system determined the marginality of Arab education in the State of Israel. The official policy in the Arab sector was created by the security establishment and focused on neutralization of opposition and facilitation of loyalty to the State. The educational materials were purged of Arab national contents while religious and cultural-ethnic themes were accentuated.

Differentiation between secular and religious education

The National Education Act legalized the politically biased character of the Israeli educational system and made permanent its division into secular and religious education systems that grew wider apart with the coming years. The control of the National Religious Educational System by Mizrachi (later the National Religious Party) caused it to become more and more independent with the years while the autonomy of the ultra-Orthodox educational system, which was practically complete from the beginning, became ever more uncontrollable by the state.

educational policy

Israeli policy makers for education now encountered a situation in which the population included masses of immigrants from the Islamic countries in Africa and Asia. This situation required that the system grant equal educational opportunity, facilitate social-economic mobility, and serve as the crucible for forging one nation out of people of many different ethnic backgrounds. Problems in attaining such goals were exacerbated by the fact that there existed a high correlation between the country of origin of the new immigrants and basic social variables such as education level, number of children in the family, and socio-economic status (generally low). However, the educational system had a strong belief, rooted in the Jewish and Zionist traditions, in both its responsibility and ability to fulfill its educational, social, and national tasks.

The suddenly realized dream of the Ingathering of the Exiles required that educational policy make it its first objective to establish an adequate and equal educational environment for all the children of Israel. The inequalities in learning potential between various groups of students were discerned from the very beginning and the system coped with them in various ways in order to narrow the gaps. In the first 30 years, the educational policy chosen toward that end was integrative, with many shifts and changes. In the first decade the egalitarian ideology was dominant; in the second decade the emphasis of policy shifted to individual potential, based on the idea of affirmative action. Only in the third decade, after the egalitarian and the affirmative action policies failed to produce the desired results, was the policy of integration adopted. Beginning with the fourth decade of the State's independent existence educational policy in Israel became pluralistic, with school autonomy and students' choice of schools and courses. Educational policies over the years reflected the dominant cultural and ideological trends as they shifted from strong socialist sentiments, aspirations for cultural integration, and high levels of communal solidarity, to capitalism, individuality, and legitimization of multiculturalism. In the following sections the educational policy will be described separately for each of the decades.

The Policy of Equality: 1st Decade

The principle of equality in the educational system was applied, in accordance with policy, in all areas:

Making schools equal for all the children of Israel
One curriculum for all
Teaching procedures and teaching accessories equal for all classes of the same age level
One standard for the number of students in a classroom
Identical textbooks
Formally equal training for all teachers
Equal allocation of resources

Even before the end of the first decade, the policy of equal education was failing. A nationwide survey in the mid-1950s indicated clearly that the equalization objective was not attained. The failure was apparent in three areas:

Low levels of learning achievement.

Poor achievement of students at all levels of learning aptitude, including those with normal learning potential.

Correlation between low learning achievement and ethnic origin.

The Policy of Affirmative Action: 2nd Decade

The unsatisfactory results of state-administered education in the first decade were a cause of concern for the system's leadership and led it to adopt a new policy by the end of the 1950s. It became known as the policy of Affirmative Action. The minister of education in the 1960s, Zalman Aran, referred to this policy once as "educational favoritism." The idea was to institute "reverse-discrimination" or "corrective discrimination" that would intentionally create better educational conditions for underprivileged children. "Eligible for Affirmative Action" became the new key concept in education and it was applied to elementary schools (not to individuals) on the basis of definite criteria. Schools in Israel were thus classified in three categories: First, Second, and "Eligible for Affirmative Action." The eligibility of a school for affirmative action was established on the basis of three criteria: the percentage of ethnically "Eastern" ("Sephardi," not "Ashkenazi") children at the school; the mean level of learning achievement; and the level of physical infrastructure of the school: buildings, facilities, equipment, including the professional level of teachers. According to data of the Ministry of Education in 1970 about one-third of children in elementary schools attended schools that were eligible for affirmative action.

The affirmative action policy produced some educational success, notably in learning reading skills; however, its main goal of narrowing the differences in learning achievement and consequently closing social gaps was not attained.

Social Integration and the Reform in Education: 3rd Decade

The parliamentary commission that decided on a new policy aimed at narrowing the social gaps in education (the Rimalt Commission) set three major goals: upgrading the level of teaching and learning achievement; narrowing the educational gaps among children in Israel and creating conditions for all children to become integrated socially and economically; and creating frameworks that would become meeting grounds for children of parents from all countries of origin, in integrated regional schools. In these frameworks, the committee saw the feature of "national and educational value in itself."

The social program launched was called "the Integration Program," and its main objective was creating ethnically integrated classrooms. The Integration Program was grounded in the Zionist social ideology that had as its national goal ethnic integration of all tribes of Israel in order to prevent the ethnically based polarization of society. The integrated classroom had to include high-aptitude learners (labeled now "Privileged"), most of whom happened to be from middle-class Ashkenazi families, and low-aptitude learners (defined as "Underprivileged"), who were mostly of Eastern origin and children of lower class and lower-middle class families. The suggested optimal ratio of Privileged vs. Underprivileged children in an integrated unit was 60–70 per cent and 30–40 per cent respectively.

The educational program of the integrative social policy was called the "Reform in Education." Its structural aspect was that instead of the 8–4 grade division between elementary school and high school, the division now became 6–3-3, and thus junior high school classes came into being in Israel. The heterogeneous classes planned by the integration program were intended for the junior high school level (grades 7–9). The Reform in Education brought the ninth year of schooling into the framework of the law of compulsory free education for all.

The answer to the question, "to what extent did Integration contribute to the cohesion of the Israeli society," remains unresolved.

Autonomy in Education: 4th Decade

Autonomy could be accomplished only if the national educational administration transferred power and authority over education to the jurisdiction of schools, communities, and the local authorities.

Designers and planners of autonomy in education assumed that local people would be better able to cope with their communities' specific problems, including such perennial problems in education as the low learning achievement of students living in poor areas and problems of social disintegration. It was assumed that in granting autonomy to communities the overall goals of the national educational system would be better served. That new policy became known as "School Autonomy" or "Autonomy in Education."

The range of autonomy in schools includes its organizational structure, distribution of resources, curriculum and teaching methods, evaluation of students' achievement, and partnership with the community to meet its goals. Autonomy in education is synonymous with pedagogic independence granted to schools so that they can develop their particular character and take local initiatives. In this framework, the autonomous school could develop its own pedagogic philosophy, structure, and planning of teaching, and its internal mechanisms of evaluation and feedback.

Community schools

The policy of school autonomy allowed schools to take their own educational approach and led to the development of Community Schools. This model became quite widespread, currently with over 500 such schools in the country.

Community schools began to operate in Israel in 1978 on an experimental basis. The educational philosophy behind that project was that a school needs to be autonomous in choosing its pedagogic methods and has to perform more tasks than the traditional socialization and imparting of knowledge to its students. The school is a part of the community: it should strive to make elements of community life present in the school and elements of school life present in the community. This would constitute a fertile ground for the growth of social and cultural values that enrich the intellectual and spiritual world of students, parents, and the entire community. The planning of community schools in Israel was oriented toward two broad objectives: one was improvement and enrichment of the educational level of schools through contact with adult members of the community; the second was to provide an agency that would answer social and cultural needs of the community by organizing various activities.

Free Choice in Education: 5th Decade

The educational philosophy of free choice was adopted in Israel in the 1990s, after the educational system had already followed the policies of equality, affirmative action, integration, and autonomy. The free-choice trend in education could be regarded in association with a renewed rise of capitalism in the 1980s that generated a stronger demand to satisfy the particular interests of the wealthier classes.

Free choice is thus becoming an ever-more dominant guiding principle in the Israeli educational system, as part of the general processes of liberalization. It is closely associated with the autonomy in education policy and its derivative, the special-interest school.

Summary: Education and Society in Israel

The turning point in Israeli education occurred after the state become sovereign and its charismatic leader at the time, David Ben-Gurion, called upon it to become an agent of radical change from the former language, culture, and values of the Jews who immigrated in masses to begin a new life as citizens of their new homeland, which was struggling to survive. It seemed imperative then that they adapt to the culture and social values of the new society. The radical aspect of this supreme goal and its effect on education in Israel must be kept in view: the educational system was charged with a mission of radically changing the immigrant children and thus effecting a profound change in an entire population.

The Israeli educational system has had the intention and strong motivation to influence social integration. The changing policies it followed were not sufficient to close the educational gaps between Jews of Ashkenazi and "Eastern" descent. There occurred a certain narrowing of differences in learning achievement; however, they still exist as a challenge to Israeli society and its educational policy makers.

the structure of the school system

Not just the essential educational rationale and policies were formed in the 1950s but also the system's organizational structure. This included division into grades and branching into academic and non-academic tracks, work procedures, lines of authority, and links between different organizational units all the way from the individual classroom teacher up to the director-general and the minister of education.

Centralized Administration and Supervision

The basic premise has been that the State is responsible for providing every child with an acceptable level of basic education. Based on this obligation it has been understood that beyond all particular changes and variations the State has, by the agency of its Ministry of Education and Culture, a decisive role in administering the education system and guiding it. The functions of the Ministry of Education cover budgetary, curricular, and operational aspects of the education system's activities. The Ministry itself is monitored by the parliamentary Committee of Education. The main tasks of the Ministry of Education are defined as implementation of the Compulsory Education Law, financing the system, which includes construction of school buildings and of other educational facilities; administrative, curricular, and didactic supervision of the functioning of the system; and employing of teachers up to the 9th grade.

In addition to the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Welfare covers some areas of the educational system's operations, such as remedial learning services, day care centers, training of personnel, boarding schools, and institutions for handicapped children.

The Ministry of Education is structured according to three formal principles. One is division between sectors of the Israeli population. The most obvious division is between the Arabic and Hebrew educational systems, which in practice are two separate systems under the administrative umbrella of the Ministry of Education. Hebrew education is divided into separate systems of schools, the National and the National-Religious. Thus, in effect, Israeli education is divided into three separate networks, the National, the National-Religious, and the Arab. External to the official system there exists also the "Independent" network of schools of the ultra-Orthodox Jews, associated with the ultra-Orthodox and religious political parties. The "Independent" network is based on existing legislation and is financed by the State; however, the extent of the Ministry's involvement in its operations is almost nil. Yet another independent system, "El ha-Ma'ayan," was initiated in the 1970s. It is nationally Jewish, religiously Orthodox, and ethnically Eastern, associated with the Orthodox non-Asheknazi political party Shas. Recent years have also seen the establishment of schools called "Mofet," whose prime movers have been immigrants from the former Soviet Union and which include the teaching of Russian culture and intensive teaching of the physical sciences. That network has not been officially recognized, but it too gets financial support from the Ministry of Education. The Ministry of Education maintains a unified Pedagogic Department and the religious schools have representatives in all its other departments as well.

The second basic structural principle of the educational system is a division of the Ministry's units that operate in three separate areas: administrating educational personnel; organization and financing; and supervision in the areas of pedagogy and curriculum.

The third principle concerns routine operations of the educational system. It operates in six districts: North, Haifa, Center, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and South. On this regional level it coordinates its operations with the educational departments of local authorities that have a substantial role in routinely managing the system.

The Education Budget

In 2003, Israel spent 10% of its gnp on education, the highest percentage in the world, including rich countries like the U.S., France, Spain, Sweden, Japan, and the U.K. The expenditure per student is close to the average of oecd countries: $3,483 in primary level classes in Israel vs. $3,595 in oecd and $4,777 in secondary classes in Israel vs. $4,971 in oecd.

The high level of national spending on education includes nevertheless a growing share of private spending. This is an indication that private educational services substitute for and supplement the public services.

Gradation and Tracking in the Educational System – An Overview

From the beginnings, the compulsory education system included free kindergarten and eight years of free schooling. The system also included four grades of secondary education that was not free, in three tracks of specialized teaching and learning: academic, technological (at that time called "vocational"), and agricultural. The reform in education in 1968 changed the system to six elementary school years, three junior high school years, and three high school years. Most schools shifted to the 6–3–3 setup though some retained the old 8–4 division. In the 1970s, free compulsory education was extended to include two years of preschool (ages 4–5) and ten years of schooling.

The national school system includes formal and informal educational frameworks. Formal education includes two years of preschool, elementary grades 1–6 or 1–8, junior high school grades 7–9, high school grades 10–12, and "Comprehensive" school grades 7–12. High schools have three tracks: Academic, Technological, and Agricultural, with a small proportion of boarding schools. In 2004 a new reform was under consideration, which aimed to eliminate the junior high school division. It has not been put in practice yet.

In addition, the national school system covers special education institutions and special schools for exceptionally talented students. Academic-level education also falls under the auspices of the national system, including eight graduate and postgraduate level universities, public and private undergraduate colleges, and teachers' colleges. In recent years, foreign colleges and universities awarding first and second academic degrees opened affiliates in Israel; however, the Israeli Ministry of Education has no direct authority over these institutions of academic studies. Frameworks of informal education that are supported by the Ministry of Education include some extracurricular activities in regular schools which go under the name of "Social Education" – art projects, sports, educational tv, and youth organizations.

Kindergarten Education

The first kindergarten in Israel was open in 1898, in one of the first Jewish settlements, Rishon le-Zion, and since then preschool education has been considered an integral part of the system. The insistence on preschool education is based on the premise that many learning problems originate in environmental-social deprivation. Preschools allow the system to supervise and control at an early stage some aspects of the child's close environment. Therefore, preschool curricula attempt to upgrade the child's level of aptitude in learning and in social behavior as a means of closing social and educational gaps.

Day care centers and kindergartens in Israel serve children of 2–6 years of age. Children aged 3–6 fall under compulsory education in kindergartens operated by the local authorities and subject to professional supervision by the Ministry of Education. The day care centers for the 2–4-year-olds are predominantly private. Some belong to women's organizations or the local authorities. Most are supervised by the Ministry of Education. Some day care centers operate until late afternoon and admit infants 6 months old and children until school age. The preschool system, like the school system, is divided into general secular, general religious, ultra-Orthodox, and Eastern-Orthodox kindergartens. Naturally, on this level too the Jewish and the Arab preschools are separate. The national aspect of preschool education in Israel finds expression in compulsory free education for all children age 4–6; in subsidized tuition for ages 3–4; in national curricula; and in implementation of supervision and control laws that apply to all children from the age of two. The system creates conditions that make the rate of attendance at the preschool level very high.

Public kindergartens in 2003 were attended by 313,000 children out of 1,946,000 in the whole system (about 16%), 245,000 of them in the Hebrew sector and 68,000 in the Arabic sector. In the compulsory kindergartens (for age 5) there were 126,000 children, 96,000 in the Hebrew and 30,000 in the Arabic sector (figures of the Central Bureau of Statistics).

Nowadays the emphasis in preschool education is on literacy, appreciation of culture, computer literacy, beginning of scientific-technological education, as well as facilitation of creativity and learning-related activities and games with the participation of the child's parents. The pedagogic goal is to plant the seeds of knowledge and scientific interest, to acculturate children to the quick pace of technological change and sophistication as early as at the preschool age; further, to facilitate good and close relations between preschool teachers and parents, based on the premise that this is an important factor in the child's well being, and to facilitate the child's psychological and social development. On the basis of this educational policy, preschool children in Israel are introduced to computer games and to curricula in different areas of knowledge.

Primary Education

Primary education, more than any other level of the system, experienced two major shakeups in its formative years in the early 1950s. One was the transition from independent, ideologically uniform systems to State supervision and control. The second was separation of the religious and the secular schools. The second development was the less significant, as the separation between independently operating systems of secular and religious education existed already in the pre-State area. The greatest effect of the change was in the secular independent schools, because two different systems, the "General" (ideologically middle-class) and the "Workers" (ideologically socialist) school systems were made into one. The other shakeup was caused by the influx of immigrant children at that time, affecting mostly the elementary schools, which had to shoulder the heaviest share of the burden. As pointed out above, the immediate results of these historic events were a disproportionate and rapid growth of the educational system and de facto separation between immigrant and native-born children which resulted in two qualitatively unequal kinds of schools. This, in turn, contributed to the widening of the gap in learning achievement between students along the lines of native-born vs. immigrants (a variable that disappeared with the passing of years) and of ethnic origin (a variable that still affects learning results).

Until the reform of 1968, elementary schools consisted of eight grades. The legislated reform changed it into six grades. In the early 21st century, over three decades later, one-third of elementary schools still operated according to the old eight-grade structure. Elementary schools are the biggest section of the system in terms of numbers of students, classrooms, teachers, and teaching hours. They operate six days a week, about 200 school days a year, four to eight classroom hours a day, depending on the designation and level of a classroom and a school. One of the outstanding features of the Israeli elementary school is that almost all teachers are female. According to figures of the Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of primary level students in 2003 was 776,000 out of the system's total of 1,946,000 (40%); 572,000 of them were attending Hebrew schools and 204,000 Arabic schools.

In lower grades of elementary schools one teacher teaches many different subjects in her capacity as homeroom teacher (called the class's "educator"). In grades 4–6, the division of classroom sessions into separate subjects is instituted and more teachers teach in each homeroom class. The Ministry of Education tries to introduce the separation of content areas taught by specialized teachers earlier and, at the same time, to require teachers of the lower grades to specialize in teaching two subjects. It also wishes to upgrade the level of math and English teachers to bring elementary school teachers up to the level of secondary school teachers and thus upgrade the quality of teaching in the lower grades.

Most elementary schools have libraries, psychological counseling services, and truant officers. Many are equipped with computers as learning aids. Supervision by the Ministry of Education is administered by a supervisor who has responsibility for teacher placement, supervision, and evaluation. Teachers of particular subjects have professional supervisors as well. Teaching is done in homeroom classes and in equalized-level classes with students from different homerooms, selected according to their learning aptitude in certain subjects (mostly English and arithmetic). The schedule is fixed; students have practically no choice of programs. The basic curriculum is designed by the Ministry of Education but schools have a measure of autonomy in balancing different subject areas and adding their own programs. The Ministry of Education regularly administers nationwide learning achievement surveys in arithmetic, reading comprehension, and English.

Primary level education is the receptor of a large part of innovation and pedagogic initiative, both organizational and curricular. Over the years, schools on this level have been established with designated specializations in art, nature, ecology, as well as open schools, ideologically oriented schools, community schools, and autonomous-democratic schools. Elementary schools have launched new teaching methods such as learning in small groups, coordinated teaching, independent research groups, learning in media centers, and more. Innovative changes include the schools' own curriculum design and alternative achievement evaluation methods.

Parents of elementary school children have limited possibilities of influencing curriculum, methods, or personnel placement in schools. The system, however, encourages parents to take part in extracurricular activities, mostly by way of the ptas ("Parents' Committees"). This becomes one of the major ways in which inequality among various schools is generated: schools in which parents are relatively wealthy can afford much more in the way of enrichment programs, equipment, and extracurricular projects than schools in poor neighborhoods. Moreover, registration bylaws were formerly more strictly imposed, so that parents could not register their children in any school they chose but had to register them in their registration area. Today parents have more freedom to choose the school they consider the best for their child in or outside their area.

Learning Achievement in Elementary Schools

In 1963, Israel was found on top of the list among 12 leading industrialized nations, based on identical achievement tests in mathematics and science administered in elementary schools. This result was generated in an Israel still absorbing immigrants and having economic problems. Thirty-five years later, in the late 1990s and based on international timss-r testing, Israel was ranked no. 39 among 53 nations in achievement in mathematics and science. The gap between top achievers and bottom achievers among Israel's children was greater than in 49 of the nations that participated in the test. In reality, the figure is much worse, since it does not include students of the ultra-Orthodox schools whose achievement in these subjects is extremely low. The top students in Israel were ranked 35th among the 53 nations.

In 2003, based on a pirls test in reading comprehension administered to fourth graders, Israeli children were ranked 23rd in the 53-nation sample.

In 2003, the results of a pisa test administered in 40 countries by oecd, the organization of industrialized nations, to 15-year-old students, were published. The students were tested in reading comprehension, mathematics, and science. Israel was ranked no. 30 in reading comprehension, no. 31 in mathematics, and no. 33 in science (Ben David, 2003). Those results prompted the minister of education to launch yet another educational reform, with the stated goal of improving learning results (on the recommendations of the Dovrat Committee, which issued its Report in 2005 – partially implemented and in many quarters criticized for its emphasis on organizational rather than substantive reform).

Secondary Education

The Israeli education system intends to accommodate diverse populations of students and succeeds in providing most children with 12 years of schooling. In this, it differs significantly from pre-independence days, when secondary education was accessible to only a small segment of the general population and most students failed the entrance examinations. In 1948, only 12% of the Jewish young were actually learning in secondary schools. In 2003, 96.3% of children 15–17 years of age received 9 to 12 years of schooling (97.2% of the Jews and 93.3% of Arabs); 90.8% of Israelis 18–24 years of age had finished secondary school (95.1% of Jews and 75.6% of Arabs).

In reality, wide gaps in learning achievement in elementary schools (or, at the latest, in junior high schools) constitute a barrier on the way to a high school. The stated goals and policy of the Israeli educational system, however, aim at overcoming this barrier and enabling practically all students to get 12 years of schooling. To that end, the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) enacted a law in 1979 granting free education to all up to the age of 16. The idea was also to alleviate the tight financial situation of secondary schools. The Free Education Act had some effect on secondary school attendance, lowering the dropout rates in senior classes, in particular with students of Eastern ethnic origin and, among them, in particular, boys in academic secondary schools. In the year 2003–4, 282,143 students attended Hebrew secondary schools; 65.6% of them were in the National Secular system, 16.8% in the National Religious system, and 17.6% in the ultra-Orthodox system. The number of students in Arabic secondary schools has been 62,142 (5,494 of them Druze).

In light of its ideology and stated goals, the national educational policy was to establish varying types of schools with courses of study for students of widely differing scholastic levels. The leaders of the national educational system have believed in providing an equal opportunity for all children in Israel to get secondary education. Tracks of available courses include academic high schools that prepare students to take the matriculation examinations for post-secondary education and offer a wide range of subjects. There is also the Comprehensive High School, in which some students take the academic track (for matriculation) and others take the non-academic track (vocational, technological); agricultural and technological secondary schools also offer academic courses along with the specifically vocational ones. Critics of this educational policy claim that although the number of students in secondary schools is consistently rising, the ethnically Eastern Jewish students are directed to the vocational tracks and the Ashkenazis to the academic tracks. The differentiation in courses of study constitutes, in the view of critics, a discriminatory practice that sustains the ethnic division in the educational system and preserves class differences as well as the power of the ruling Ashkenazi elite. These critics see the Israeli educational system as stratified by class.

Hebrew high school seniors in Israel (12th grade) currently number 82,805. According to track, 50,357 learn in academic schools, 25,661 in technological schools, and 1,021 in agricultural schools. Arab high school seniors number 14,331, 9,631 in academic and 4,449 in technological schools or courses.

In 2002, 21,600 students (6.6%) dropped out of grades 9–12 in junior high and high schools. The proportion of dropouts in Hebrew schools was 5.6% and in Arabic schools it was 11.1%. Demographically, most dropouts were boys, children of parents with a low education level, children of single mothers, and new immigrants living five years in Israel or less.

Junior High Schools

In 1968, the Israeli Knesset passed legislation on a reform in the structure of the educational system. The Ministry of Education accordingly restructured the elementary and secondary schools and created junior high schools for grades 7–9. Reform in education had two main goals: integration across all social groups and strata and raising the learning achievement level of underprivileged students. The integration policy was put into practice by dividing the country into "educational regions" which did not necessarily include geographical proximity or continuity but were socially heterogeneous. The students in each of the schools in an "educational region" had to come not from one but from different socio-economic groups. Graduates of elementary schools, without selection, were enlisted in junior high schools in the same "educational region" in order to ensure social integration of all students. Classes in those schools became heterogeneous in terms of learning aptitude and achievement; however, they were being subdivided into homogenous higher- and lower-level learning groups, particularly for basic subjects like English and mathematics. This arrangement undermined, to a great extent, the integration reform. Beyond that, in areas where all the population was demographically homogeneous integration was difficult to institute. The political division of the national educational system into the secular and religious makes integration still more difficult, since in the national-religious system there is a relatively dense concentration of underprivileged students.

Twenty-seven years since its inception, the structural reform of the Israeli educational system is applied to 65.5% of the Jewish students, 73.9% in the national secular schools, 58.9% in national-religious schools, and 70.9% in Arab schools. Many junior high schools are not administratively separate but operate within Comprehensive Schools that include also upper secondary school grades.

In 2003–4, 189,006 students were registered in Hebrew junior high schools and 64,999 in Arabic junior high schools. The percentage of registered students on that level, out of the total age group has been 73% in both sectors. The Dovrat Commission appointed by the Ministry of Education in order to draft and recommend a reform aimed at improving learning achievement suggested eliminating junior high schools altogether; so far only a few local governments have begun to implement this recommendation.

Academic Secondary Schools

In 1995–96, 50% of students in grades 10–12 were registered in academic high schools and 43% in technological-vocational schools. The proportion of academic and non-academic students in secondary schools has changed significantly since the early days of statehood in both Hebrew and Arabic schools. The proportion of academic students declined sharply and then increased slightly. This was mainly due to a policy that focused on the development of technological-vocational tracks of study as an alternative for underprivileged students. It should be noted that although the proportion of academic students in Arabic secondary schools is markedly higher than in Hebrew secondary schools, the proportion of Arab students who graduate and pass the matriculation examination is much lower than in Hebrew schools.

Matriculation examinations and certificates

Up until the 1960s, academic secondary schools in Israel were selective, had strict scholastic achievement requirements for admission, and admitted only those who qualified. From the mid-1960s, the Ministry of Education facilitated the way of more students to secondary education. Comprehensive schools were established; vocational and technological tracks of study were opened for students whose chances of passing the matriculation examinations were low. As technological education began to develop dynamically and the academic secondary school did not keep up with developments, it was labeled as old fashioned and its image suffered. In the 1970s, the Ministry of Education, to prevent a further deterioration of the academic school's prestige, initiated changes that made curricula more flexible in comparison with its former rigid learning tracks. The newly introduced concept was "learning modules." In addition to improving the image of academic secondary schools, it intended to enable more students to pass the matriculation examinations. Learning modules were defined in volume as three weekly teaching hours per year and a distinction was made between compulsory and elective modules. Students thus were given a choice of subjects and of the level of learning in each module. The matriculation examinations were changed to accommodate the learning module system, which included both compulsory and elective subjects on different levels.

The process of opening the curriculum to choice and flexibility and the cutback in high school years (three years instead of four with the establishment of junior high schools) contributed to the expansion of specialized high schools and courses, and to a corresponding contraction in basic studies for all students. Many schools offered courses that were not formerly available in secondary education. As a result, the Matriculation Departments in the Ministry of Education had to produce each year hundreds of matriculation examination questionnaires in dozens of subject areas and at different levels.

In the second half of the 1970s, the matriculation system came under mounting public criticism. The gist of the criticism was that the system promoted social selectivity and served as a gatekeeper for institutions of secondary education. Critics claimed that the matriculation system worked mostly against students of low socio-economic status who could not even enter the tracks of study that led to matriculation. Another line of criticism concerned the integrity and fairness of the examinations in such an intricate and complicated system. A public committee was appointed in 1979 to examine the matriculation system and make recommendations. It did not suggest significant changes but recommended preserving the existing structure of the system; criticism continued after the committee published its report. Many critics pointed out that the matriculation examinations, which serve as a mechanism of selection for admission to colleges and universities, turned the academic high school into "matriculation factories" and actually impaired effective teaching and learning. High schools became known and valued only by the performance of their graduates in matriculation examinations, which resulted in much greater competition among schools. In order to keep their position in this competition, some schools adopted a policy of dismissing students who were capable of remaining in school, and wanted to remain, but could not reach the levels of achievement that the school administration demanded.

Matriculation examinations were reformed in 1994–95. The number of compulsory subjects of examination was reduced from seven to four by means of an annual lottery; subjects that the lottery eliminated were to be graded by the school's teachers. The reduction in the number of examinations was intended to allow more students to get the matriculation certificate as well as to help schools teach for broader and deeper knowledge rather than, as the critics claimed, being "matriculation factories." The lottery system came under criticism as not being dignified and because of the concern that important subject like Bible and English would not be taught intensively enough during the school year. The minister of education eliminated the lottery system in 1997–98 but the reform in matriculation examinations – four subjects instead of six – has remained.

Having its students eligible for the matriculation certificate has become a major goal of the Israeli educational system. In the Hebrew academic high schools, 89.7% of the students took the examinations but only 67.3% passed. In technological schools, 77.7% were examined and only 47.8% got the certificate; the rates in agricultural schools were 84.2% and 46.1%, respectively. In Arabic academic high schools, 94.7% of the students were examined and only 58% qualified; in Arabic technological schools 76.5% were examined and 38.2% qualified.

There is big gap in the proportion of Jewish and Arab students who get the matriculation certificate, and the gap is slowly widening. In the Arab sector, the lowest qualification rate is in Muslim schools whereas the rates in Christian Arab schools are the same as in Hebrew schools. In the Hebrew sector, a gap between Eastern and Ashkenazi students still exists; however, it is slowly being narrowed.

A statistically high probability of getting the matriculation certificate correlates with the socio-economic status of students and their parents. In 2003, it was found that in communities with a high socio-economic profile, two-thirds of high school graduates pass the exams and get the certificate. In communities of low socio-economic profile, like the Jewish "development towns" in the provinces and most Arab towns, the proportion of students who pass the matriculation examinations upon graduating from high school was about 40%.

These data indicate that Israeli secondary education did succeed in having more students learn 12 full years. Increase in the number of students who tried to get the matriculation certificate was slower, and many of those who are examined do not get the minimum passing grades in all of the required subjects. The social class factor significantly affects the chances of a student to matriculate.

The Policy of "a Second Chance."

The certificate of matriculation in Israel is a crucial factor in determining the educational and occupational destiny of a person. This certificate is the necessary – but not always sufficient – passport to academic studies. In view of its importance, the educational system in Israel allows students a second chance to pass the examinations and get the certificate. Three alternative types of institutions are certified by the Ministry of Education to teach for that purpose: private morning and afternoon schools, pre-academic preparatory courses, and a "Second Chance" project for underprivileged students. These teaching and learning frameworks accept the many high school graduates who did not qualify for the matriculation certificate. Most students who study with the Second Chance project or the pre-academic preparatory courses get the certificate and are admitted to colleges and universities.

The outcome of the "second chance" policy is reflected in the following statistical data: one-third of all students who failed to matriculate on their high school graduation in 1995 upgraded their grades in the subjects they needed through a "second chance" framework and got their matriculation certificates in or before 2003. Accordingly, the total rate of successful matriculation climbed from 50% on graduation to 59% in 2003. Gaps between different populations in Israel can be observed in this area too: in Hebrew schools, 69% of graduates got the matriculation certificate in 1995, rising to 81% in 2003 – an increase of 17%; in Arabic schools, the rate climbed from 49% to 61% – an increase of 25%. In Hebrew schools, ethnic differences could still be noted: the rates for students of Eastern origin climbed from 61% to 74%; for students of Israeli origin, from 72% to 83%; and for students of European and American origin the rates were 75% and 86%, respectively.

The Comprehensive School

Comprehensive schools embody the egalitarian ideal of education and equal educational opportunity for all. The terms "comprehensive" in this context can be understood in two ways. One is that education has to include all members of society regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or class. Another meaning is that education needs to encompass and include the variety of human interests and talents and facilitate the development of each individual's potential. Those ideals are put into practice in comprehensive schools by a policy of general admittance of all children without selection; then, by providing basic education for all, no dismissal of slow students, a wide range of courses and tracks of study, and social integration. Most comprehensive schools have six grades (7–12). The practice of not dismissing students, including those who finished the junior high school grades, requires the comprehensive schools to offer a variety of other than regular academic courses on different levels.

The Comprehensive School in Israel has a long history. Educators in some schools promoted the "comprehensive" idea as early as 1953; however, until 1963 it did not get official attention. In the 1960s new schools were established that were not called "comprehensive" but did made their curriculum flexible, adjusting it to the needs of underprivileged populations and offering both academic and vocational courses. Schools of this type were established mostly in peripheral areas and in communities with a high concentration of new immigrants; in the following years the educational authorities began working out the organizational and pedagogic frameworks for operating this new model. When, in 1968, the Knesset legislated the Reform in Education program and secondary schools were made over to include six grades (7–12), it recommended that they become "comprehensive" and so this educational idea became officially recognized. In the 1970s some of the most prestigious schools in Israel were already among those that had become fully or partially comprehensive. These schools developed school-based curricula in prestigious areas (arts, computer science, etc.) in order to provide incentives for all junior high school graduates to continue their studies in their high schools. After the October 1973 Yom Kippur War the pace of the changeover slowed down markedly, however, beginning in 1988 the comprehensive school movement began intensive development through a new model of educational institution, the Community Education Center.

Community Education Centers are clusters of organizationally unified schools, usually a number of junior high schools and a comprehensive high school in the same area that accepts all the area's pupils after they finish junior high school. The Community Education Center is a comprehensive system with advanced facilities and a wide range of courses and special classes on all levels. It admits pupils from diverse socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds in order to promote social integration. The model has no parallel in the world; it was developed to meet the unique educational needs of Israel's multicultural immigrant society. Since the beginning of the 1990s, close to 20 Community Education Centers have become operational in Israel and new ones are being planned.

The numbers for students learning in Hebrew comprehensive schools show an increase from 30,845 in 1970 to 52,672 in 1980 and 159,864 in 2000. The numbers leveled out in the 2000s, the figure for 2004 being 153,645. In Arabic comprehensive schools, the number was 5,100 in 1980, 28,195 in 1990, 30,420 in 2000, and 31,377 in 2004. In Hebrew education, there was massive growth in comprehensive schools between 1970 and 2000, then a slow decline. In Arabic education, the massive growth occurred between 1980 and 1990, and then continued slowly to 2004.

In 1978, 1986, and 1990, comprehensive schools were nationally surveyed. The results indicated that the extent of their being "comprehensive" is not yet complete. Admission policies were found to be less selective than those of the academic secondary schools; however, some selective mechanisms were still being used. The choice of courses and tracks of study has been more diversified but not always able to meet the students' preferences (the assignment of students to courses is less often their choice and more often the school's decision). Most students do earn the national matriculation certificate or get the school's graduation certificate; however, their range of mobility between classes and courses is limited, and it opens mainly in the less advanced direction. The survey found that privileged pupils were not negatively affected by attending comprehensive schools, most of them taking the high-prestige courses and passing the matriculation examinations. However, underprivileged pupils benefited less in comprehensive schools in spite of studying a full 12 years and, in lesser proportions, getting the matriculation certificate. In addition, the survey revealed that the comprehensive school had not narrowed the gap in learning achievement across ethnic lines. The hope of accomplishing integration did not really materialize. Integration seems to occur more readily in extracurricular activities, in particular when many schools are rather homogenous in their ethnicity and class composition.

Vocational-Technological Education

A vocational or technological school differs from an academic school in that, besides teaching general academic subjects, it trains students for future work in a specific profession. Until 1953 vocational education in Israel was supervised by the Ministry of Education. Later it came under the administrative authority of the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Education supervised only its academic courses. In 1959, vocational schools again came under the auspices of the Ministry of Education. The Ministry of Labor has been responsible only for industrial schools that operate in certain industrial plants.

Students in vocational schools study for three or four years; graduates of five-year courses in some schools obtain upon graduation a technician's degree and certificate, and graduates of six years of vocational education can obtain the professional degree of practical engineer. The tracks of study are divided between technical and non-technical courses. Technical courses are predominantly for boys and non-technical courses are predominantly for girls. Courses teach professions and train for vocations that differ in their relative occupational prestige: metalworkers, mechanics, electricians, electronics technicians, computer technicians, fashion designers, office workers, and the like. The largest organizations of vocational schools in Israel are the school networks of *ort and Amal.

Up until the 1960s, vocational education of Jewish youngsters was relatively small in proportion to general academic education and it was non-existent in the Arab sector. Beginning with the 1960s, it expanded rapidly in the Jewish sector and in the Arab sector parallel expansion occurred only in the 1980s. The massive expansion is attributed to the dual function of vocational education. On the one hand, its aim is practical, training a skilled workforce for specific occupations. On the other hand, it serves the pedagogic ideal of secondary education for all, including the disadvantaged, being an alternative to academic education. The policy that facilitated the expansion of vocational education resulted in the establishment of vocational-technological schools in areas with a high density of Eastern Jewish communities, notably in the "development towns" in the periphery. The trend affected both the National and National-Religious categories of schools. It turned Israel into one of the countries with the highest proportion of secondary vocational schools at a time when in the rest of industrialized world the share of vocational education dropped steeply in comparison with the rest of secondary education.

Technological schools in Israel developed from the 1960s mostly as alternative institutions of learning for pupils who were not found admissible to regular academic schools. Until the end of the decade, students at vocational-technological schools were not directed to take the matriculation examinations. With the idea of attracting good learners to technological schools, their curriculum was modified to contain four unequal-level tracks. One track led to matriculation; another track led to a professional occupational degree (a license to practice a profession on a certain level) and partial matriculation (not all compulsory subjects included). This modification gave more hours in academic subjects to students following studies on these tracks. Technological-vocational education thus opened itself to high-ability students and turned out to be a track of studies promising greater opportunity for educational, economic, and social mobility.

Rapid technological and scientific advancement demanded scientists and skilled workers in science and industry, and technological education lagged behind. In 1992, a committee was appointed to examine the educational system in areas of science and technology and make recommendations in order to organize technological education for the 21st century. The committee found that scientific and technological knowledge of most graduates of technological schools is insufficient and often outdated. Its central recommendation was to strengthen the theoretical basis of studies in science and technology while doing less practical work in all courses, including courses in which many pupils are slow learners. Another recommendation referred to the need for teachers to upgrade their knowledge of science and technology.

The high proportion of vocational or technological education in Israel relative to other developed countries has been a subject of ongoing concern; however, most criticism was not about the numbers but about its effect on social stratification and mobility. As it turns out, most of the Jewish pupils in technological education are ethnically Eastern. In 2003, 6,439 pupils of Eastern origin were enrolled in technological schools or courses, a full 48% of all Eastern students; 31.3% of them obtained a certificate. The 1,457 pupils of European-American ("Ashkenazi") origin enlisted in technological courses in 2003 constituted only 23.9% of all Ashkenazi students and 35.4% of them obtained the certificate. The figures indicate that the population of students in the technological educational track in Israel is clearly Eastern. Vocational education had as one of its primary objectives to admit slower pupils, usually those who come from underprivileged family backgrounds. This fact as well as the fact that even after most courses were open to matriculation many students in technological schools were not ready for the matriculation examinations turns technological education, for its mostly Eastern students, into an obstacle on the way to the college-level and university education that is the key to upward social mobility. At the same time, the merits of technological education should not be underestimated. It improved the general education level of the young population and enabled most to complete 12 years of study in the national school system.

Boarding Schools

The concept of boarding schools in Israel denotes institutions with students living in a semi-autonomous community of children. They spend most of their time living in a community of peers. Israeli boarding schools are divided into a number of categories: agricultural, vocational, pre-military vocational, military, religious "yeshivot," kibbutz educational institutions, and boarding schools for gifted children.

There exist two opposing philosophies regarding the educational goals of boarding schools. One approach regards the school as an extension of an alternative society, isolating and protecting the children from the outside world and the values that the school rejects. That boarding school wants to develop in students the skills to cope in the outside world in their own way rather than adapting to it. The other philosophy regards the boarding school as an "open house": it educates the young in harmony with the prevalent values in the outside world and prepares its students to become a productive part of it. Both philosophies are applied in Israeli boarding schools, including some compromises between them. The educational impact of boarding schools on their students is seen in such features as a value-oriented curriculum, institutional "totality" and consistency of the educational environment, intensive socialization processes, social isolation, and selection of students.

Historically, boarding schools in Israel developed in line with the Zionist ideology and its pioneering spirit that legitimized education outside the family home. They were established as "Youth Villages" or agricultural schools (farming was specifically a Zionist form of pioneering, directly opposed to Jewish family traditions). Another trend was sending children from towns to be educated in the "Youth Community" of a kibbutz collective village. The boarding school movement peaked in the days prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, when they were a powerful tool in the socialization of the "New Jew" as a member of the new Jewish society in the Land of Israel, a "Sabra." That educational ideal required that a person be distanced as far as it may from the immigrant or Diaspora type and instead live naturally in a free and independent Jewish society. Boarding schools thus served as a means of early socialization of the young to elite groups (many of Israel's political and cultural leaders were graduates of boarding schools, including Yitzhak *Rabin, Shimon *Peres, and the writer Dahn *Ben-Amotz). Boarding schools served to absorb immigrant youth, to socialize them into the new country and integrate many of the war orphans during and after World War ii. Later they took in immigrant children from the Muslim world. In those early years, boarding schools were not at all selective in admitting children. They saw their role in reeducating the immigrant young and shaping them as much as possible toward becoming, like the native-born children, equal members of the new Israeli society.

During the 1950s, Youth Villages and some of the Agricultural Boarding Schools underwent changes. The structural changes involved all schools that became nationally administered. Educational policy changed from an ideological-pioneering emphasis to individual and practical achievements according to the pupil's needs. In the days before independence, boarding schools served the collective Zionist ideology and national needs. After the founding of the State of Israel, they became part of the national educational system. Their function as absorption and socialization centers for immigrant children continued, but the role of education in answering specific individual needs became equally important, such as teaching an occupation or opening avenues of upward social mobility for graduates. These changes in boarding schools have mirrored the overall changes in the Israeli society.

Beginning with the 1970s, some of the boarding schools served as centers of education for underprivileged children in need of assistance in developing their learning potential. Those children have been mostly of homogeneous social profile: Eastern ethnic origin, children of parents of low socioeconomic strata. This change produced a negative image for boarding school education, except for the yeshivas and pre-military boarding schools that prepared their graduates to become career officers. From the 1980s, boarding schools have admitted many immigrant children from Ethiopia and from the former Soviet Union – actually returning to their traditional role in the pre-State and early statehood days.

Enrollment and registration of students in boarding schools is carried out through the agency of the Ministry of Welfare, Ministry of Education, and Youth Aliyah (an organ of the Jewish Agency). The authorities may direct a child to a boarding school for reasons of the child's welfare and growth, which could be in jeopardy in his or her family environment, under difficult socio-economic conditions and as a function of time in Israel. The educational results meet expectations: the achievement level of new immigrant and other graduates of boarding schools has been higher than that of children of the same social groupings in regular schools.

Although boarding schools did well in integrating immigrant children in Israel, the number of children registered in them has dropped since the 1980s. In 1984–85, 11.6% of all secondary school students in Israel were in boarding schools. In 2002–3 their number dropped to 7.9% (37,893 students). It needs to be noted in this context, that in general-secular boarding schools most students are offered vocational courses while in the general-religious boarding schools most courses are academic.

Agricultural Education

Agricultural education has accompanied Jewish-Zionist settlement in Ereẓ Israel since its very beginnings. The first agricultural school, *Mikveh Israel, was established in 1870 near Jaffa. Agricultural education in the early days was a direct extension of the Zionist movement in its drive to reclaim, settle, and work the land. Farming schools were educating the young to undertake this national effort. The mainstream of the Zionist movement, the Labor Movement, made its greatest effort in what it considered the most important task in building a nation, creating an agricultural infrastructure. That was the heyday of farming schools; they attracted many young people who were the elite of the native-born Israelis from villages and cities. Schools of agriculture were considered elitist, and a spearhead of Zionist national education. Farming was considered a highly important subject of study in all elementary and secondary schools.

With the passing of the years, agricultural education sharply declined. This can be explained by the fact that agriculture in Israel slowly but steadily lost its appeal as a way of life and as a profitable or prestigious occupation. First, the ideology that idealized working the land as the noblest national occupation waned in the first two decades of independence. Secondly, the share of agriculture in the Israeli economy became much smaller while industry and services expanded as a result of both government policy and market trends. Thirdly, the rapid growth in the number of agricultural settlements established soon after the War of Independence to populate all parts of the country with Jews and settle new immigrants resulted in agricultural surpluses and diminished profitability. Finally, advanced technology lowered the demand for workers in agriculture. All those factors brought about a sharp decline in the social and occupational status of farming and, concurrently, a decline in the status of agricultural education. Farming schools, formerly breeding grounds for future national leaders, became boarding schools for the least advanced pupils. Farming education became a form of occupational rehabilitation for troubled youth. The general decline of agricultural education is reflected in student enrollment. It went down from 9.1% in 1959–60 to 2.7% of secondary school pupils in 2002–3. From the 1980s, agricultural schools became boarding schools for immigrant children. In the Arab population, agricultural education went through a similar process. The rates were 4.8% of all students in 1959–60 and 1.4% in 2002–3. It has been assumed that, in addition to the factor of general economic modernization, as in the Jewish sector, the decline in agricultural education among Arabs, who traditionally constituted a predominantly agricultural society, had two additional causes. One was scarcity of arable land as family plots were subdivided among heirs, as well as through land appropriation by the government. Second, later legislation abolished the War Emergency status under which a military government had confined Arabs to their village areas, opening the Jewish job market to Israeli Arabs.

Special Education

Special Education is a separate branch of the national educational system serving mentally or physically impaired children 3–21 years of age (children younger than three in need of special care are the charge of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Welfare). "Special children" are children with irregular health, mental, or educational conditions, like mental retardation, emotional disturbance, learning disability, emotional and social neglect, physical impairment, or chronic disease. The "special" child's condition impairs his or her intellectual, psychological, or social development and requires special treatment in education and care.

Special education institutions differ from regular schools in their size, curriculum, pedagogic methods, and psychological approach. Their educational efforts are directed to suit each particular condition of the child and the educational environment is designed for coping with various problems of the pupil population. Special education schools also include special courses that combine academic learning with learning vocational skills and educational-correctional institutions for minors who cannot be accommodated in other institutions or who are directed there by a court order.

Educational, social, and moral considerations made the educational system in the 1990s adopt a policy of integrating as many special children as possible in regular classes and schools. This new policy required reorganization – instituting separate special education frameworks in schools alongside the regular classes – but also budgetary changes. Integration of special children in regular schools has been accomplished in recent years. It is done in special classes of various kinds such as remedial learning, special care classes, integrated classes, and therapeutic centers which pupils attend several hours a day, or in learning specific subjects.

In 1995, special education children constituted 3.3% of all school children 5–18 years of age. The special education budget was 8% of the total national education budget. The data provided by the Central Bureau of Statistics indicate that in the half century prior to the 2000s the proportion of special education institutions relative to regular Hebrew schools declined from 19% to 2.5%. In Arab education, the opposite trend is in evidence: it climbed from 0.6% to 6.7%. The reduction in the proportion of special education schools in Hebrew education is understood as being the result of integration in regular schools. In Arab education, the change reflects a general upgrade in educational services that include attention and care for the special children.

Teacher education for special children is done in separate courses in teachers' colleges. Admission procedures for these courses are more demanding than for others; special education teaching in Israel is generally credited with a higher occupational status than regular teaching. In universities, special education is taught in separate departments in schools of education.

Special education in Israel is grounded in legislation. The Special Education Act was legislated in 1988 and applied since January 1989. It clearly establishes the State's responsibility in caring for special children; the right of any special child to receive free special education; the obligations of local authorities; authorization of parents and their representatives to take part in decision making before assignment of their child to special education; and the duties of parents as partners in the care, rehabilitation, and education of their child. The Special Education Act reflects the efforts Israel has made in becoming a modern welfare state since the 1980s. Political pressure from interested parent groups contributed to the legislation that gave parents a standing in decision making concerning the educational alternatives for their special children. Among special education pupils are children of upper and middle class parents who have an interest in placing them in regular schools. These parents, belonging to the more politically influential groups of society, succeeded in bringing about maximum integration of special children in regular Israeli schools. In contrast, parents of the same groups whose children are normal have been applying pressure from the 2000s for pluralism in education that would bring about greater segregation of special children in separate frameworks of teaching and learning.

Higher Education

Higher education in Israel began with the cultural aspirations of Zionism to make the Jewish community in Palestine a cultural center for world Jewry and create a new Jewish culture with the Hebrew language as its living core. The Hebrew University established in Jerusalem in 1925 was intended to actualize the Zionist program of creating an education and research center not just for the Jewish community in Palestine but also for the entire Jewish world. The Haifa High School of Engineering ("Technion"), also opened in 1925, was intended to serve a Zionist goal as well, that of producing Jewish engineers and architects for building the physical infrastructure of the Land of Israel. Both the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Haifa Technion could be regarded as an expression of the intention on the part of the Jewish community in Palestine to establish and maintain its higher education institutions on the European model.

Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, six additional universities have been established. Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan was inaugurated in 1955 with the intention to serve the Jewish religious population. Tel Aviv University was established in 1956. Haifa University and Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba opened in 1972. The Weizmann Institute of Science was established before Israel's independence as a research institute only, but in 1958 it became an academic institute that confers degrees in physical and natural sciences. The last of the universities is the Open University (uww), admitting students since 1976.

Unlike other universities, the Open University admits all applicants and has no admission procedures. Students study off-campus with much independence. This makes the Open University a very prominent example of the equal opportunity in educational principles. It opens its gates to students who failed the matriculation examination, older students who begin their studies after being established economically, full-time working students, and students from depressed neighborhoods and equally depressed "development towns" in the country's periphery.

Alongside the universities Israel has regional colleges with academic courses accredited by the Higher Education Council. Colleges confer first academic degrees in courses offered in cooperation with a university. The Ministry of Education and Higher Education Council support the colleges in order to enable more students to get their first academic degree – a policy in line with the general educational policy of providing an equal opportunity to get an academic degree for the greatest part of the population. Tuition is equal in all universities and its share in the total budget of academic institutions is generally dropping. An amendment to the Higher Education Council Act of 1995 allows colleges to grant first academic degrees, in order to facilitate the arrival of more high school graduates at institutes of higher education. Some colleges in Israel operate as annexes of foreign universities, though their degrees are accredited only by the Ministry of Labor, not by the Ministry of Education. Options for getting a bachelor's and master's academic degrees in Israel have been widened. With higher education becoming more democratized in general, the number of academic degree holders in Israel is increasing, but so is the criticism of academic standards.

Universities, colleges, and annexes of foreign universities in Israel are considered academic institutions. In addition to these, the higher education system includes specialized schools in various professional domains that certify their graduates as teachers, technicians, welfare assistants, and paramedical practitioners, and in administration, business, music, and performing and visual arts. Some of those schools are accredited by the Higher Education Council and confer B.A. or B.Sc. degrees to students in their respective fields of study.

An additional higher education institution is the pre-academic preparatory school that operates under the auspices of academic institutions in cooperation with the Ministry of Defense. Those schools were established to give a second chance to army veterans who had not completed their matriculation studies when in high school, so that they could resume their studies and make it to college. Beginning in the 1990s, half the preparatory school students were of Eastern ethnic origin. Some of these schools prepare their students for the matriculation examinations; others teach toward passing the entrance examinations to universities or colleges.

The Higher Education Council (hec) is authorized by law to serve as the repository of budgets from the government and the Jewish Agency for institutions of higher education. The direct authority of managing public monies budgeted for higher education is in the hands of the Planning and Budgeting Committee of the hec. The hec approves the budget of the universities and allots the funds. It licenses the opening of new institutions of higher learning, gives accreditation to their degrees, and approves the opening of new departments in existing institutions. It also allots funds for teaching positions among academic personnel and supervises academic standards.

As in other countries, higher education in Israel is a major channel of social mobility. The national value of equal educational opportunity is realized in higher education by the system's effort to lower the barriers of admission in order to ease the way for more people. Stringent admission procedures are applied only in some schools or departments that are considered prestigious and where the number of applicants far exceed the institution's capacity. The prestige or desirability of schools leading to various professional degrees changes with social and economic developments. However, demand for or surplus of professionals in specific areas has never been a factor in the admission policies of higher education institutions in Israel; the policy has always aimed at enabling the most people to be admitted and get their degrees. Academicians have no special privileges in army service. Apart from a very limited number of students who learn in a framework called "Academic Reserves" for degrees in areas that are in demand in the army, university studies are not considered a reason to postpone one's army service. High school graduates have to serve their term in the army before they can turn to academic study. For that reason, Israeli students are 2–3 years older than students in other countries.

Higher education in Israel is not free. Scholarships are scarce, given to outstanding students. Tuition costs and other issues of cost, such as the cost and conditions of dormitories, were subject to a number of clashes between student organizations and academic authorities. In the late 1990s, they flared up again and even led to some violence.

The number of graduates who get their degrees is steadily rising in all universities. The annual rate of increase from 1979–1980 to 1992–93 was 3.8% and from 1989–90 to 2002–3 it was 4.7%.

The following figures apply to the 2003–4 academic year: 52.7% of all undergraduate and graduate students study in universities, 30.4% in colleges, and 16.9% in the Open University (uww). 79.8% of undergraduates in Business Administration and Management and 71.8% of undergraduates in Law study in accredited academic colleges. 93.5% of undergraduates in Physics, Natural Sciences, and Agriculture; 88.1% of undergraduates in Medicine and Paramedical Sciences, as well as 82.7% of undergraduates in Humanities study in universities.

In 2003, the total number of undergraduate and graduate students in Israel was 228,695. In the seven universities the number of registered students was 120,552 (52.7%), 76,581 of them undergraduates. In academic colleges the number of students was 69,420 (30.4%), 68,115 of them undergraduates. An additional 38,723 students (16.9%) enrolled in the academic department of the Open University, 37,406 of them undergraduates.

Between 2000 and 2003, the number of undergraduate students in both universities and accredited academic colleges increased by an average annual rate of 4.4%. The growth occurred mainly in colleges, by an average annual rate of 8.6%; in the universities, it was up by a 1.1% annual average. The proportion of students learning in colleges is still growing.

The proportion of undergraduate students enrolled in various academic fields of study varies widely between the universities and the colleges. As mentioned, 79.8% of undergraduates in Business Administration and Management and 71.8% of undergraduates in Law study in colleges. The figure for Education is 89.7% in colleges; 55% of all students in colleges study in these three fields of study. In other disciplines, the proportion of university relative to college undergraduates is higher: 82.7% in Humanities; 66.2% in Social Science; 88.1% in Medicine and Paramedical Sciences; 63.3% in Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science; 93.5% in Physics, Biology, and Agriculture; and 51.5% in Engineering and Architecture. In all those areas combined, 82.9% of all undergraduates study in universities.

Graduate students in 2003 numbered 37,107 (34,568 of them in universities), an increase of 7.5% in comparison with 2002 and an average annual increase of 5.9% since the year 2000. Doctoral students in the universities numbered 7,944, 7.3% more than the previous year and representing an average increase of 6.1% since the year 2000.

In 2004–5 there was increase in the numbers of students in comparison with 2003–4. 245,000 students were registered in the eight universities, 23 colleges, and 26 teacher colleges. Approximately 191,000 were undergraduates, 43,000 graduates, and 9,000 doctoral students; 47,000 new undergraduates were admitted, 56% of them women. The proportion of women in graduate studies has been 57% and in doctoral studies 52.7%. The proportion of Arab students is on the rise but still low, about 11% of undergraduates and only 5% of graduate students. Most undergraduates study in colleges, 54% vs. 46%

Educational Institutions1989–901999–20002001–22002–3Annual Change 1989–90 to 1999–2000Percent 1999–2000 to 2002–3
Thereof: First Degree46,51974,19475,24776,5814.81.1
Academic Colleges3,66833,70943,49248,32024.812.8
Thereof: First Degree3,66833,25042,62247,01524.712.2
Teachers Training Colleges4,61820,00420,54621,10015.81.8
Open University13,00732,73836,72238,7329.75.8
Thereof: First Degree13,00732,40036,11037,4069.64.9
Field of StudyTeachers CollegesAcademic CollegesUniversitiesTotal (100%)
1 In addition, 37,406 students were registered in academic courses of the Open University, 30,822 in Humanities and Social Sciences, and 6,358 in Mathematics and Natural Sciences.
Total21,100 (14.6%)47,016 (32.5%)76,581 (52.9%)144,697
Humanities3,391 (17.3%)16,241 (82.7%)19,632
Education and Teacher Training21,000 (88.7%)243 (1.0%)2,457 (10.3%)23,800
Social Sciences9,480 (33.8%)18,607 (66.2%)23,800
Business and Management Sciences8,187 (79.8)2,072 (20.2%)10,259
Law8,060 (71.8%)3,162 (28.2%)11,222
Medicine1,298 (100%)1,298
Paramedical Sciences901 (14.4%)5,343 (85.6%)6,244
Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science3,883 (36.7%)6,705 (63.3%)10,588
Physical Science2,781 (100%)2,781
Biological Science503 (11.2%)3,989 (88.8%)4,492
Agriculture20 (2.5%)796 (97.5%)816
Engineering and Architecture12,348 (48.5%)13,130 (51.5%)25,478

in universities. The most popular fields of study are Law, Medicine, Paramedical Sciences, Business Administration, Computer Science, Biotechnology, Social Science, and Humanities. The most stringent admission procedures exist in schools of Medicine, Psychology, Law, Engineering, Computer Science, Biotechnology, and Business Administration.

Teacher Training

Teacher training in Israel is carried out separately for elementary school teachers and secondary school teachers. Elementary school teachers are trained in teachers colleges called "seminars," many of which became academic colleges conferring a B.Ed. degree under the supervision of the Ministry of Education. Graduate teachers can resume their studies for an M.A. degree in all universities, pending completion of some additional courses. The transition to the academic level requires teachers colleges to maintain academic standards in admission, teaching staff, and curriculum. This has occurred in line with the national policy of upgrading the level of teachers and teaching in Israel.

In 2003, teacher training in Israel included 21,000 students. The process of bringing teacher training to academic level began in 1971 as an initiative of the then director-general of the Ministry of Education, who appointed a committee to examine the issue of transforming teachers seminars into colleges. This subsequently became a long-range national project under the rubric of "Academic Upgrading of Teaching Personnel in Israel." The stated goal was to allow every teacher employed in the system to gain the first academic degree in 10 years. In 1995, the authorities decided to increase the time for training junior high school teachers. Twenty-six institutions for teacher training operate in Israel; 24 are Hebrew and only two Arabic. In 1979, the total number of teachers seminars was 59, but the "academic upgrading" made it necessary for the small ones to become integrated in larger colleges.

By their essence and legal definition, teacher-training institutions exist in a border area between a post-secondary school and the university. Whereas universities in Israel are academically and organizationally independent, teachers colleges are administered and supervised by the Ministry of Education. They are dependent on the Ministry's approval in making decisions regarding administration or academic changes like, for example, opening new courses or developing curricula in new directions. Their curriculum is academic and professors enjoy full academic freedom; however, their conditions of employment are unlike those in the universities, they are not expected to conduct research, and they are evaluated for the quality of their teaching, not their research.

Teachers for secondary schools are trained in schools of education in the universities. Applicants are generally undergraduate seniors in other university schools. They study two years and graduates get, in addition to their academic degree, a permanent teacher's certificate valid for all schools supervised by the Ministry of Education. Teacher certificate studies in all universities include pedagogic subjects and a limited number of internship hours at a school. The major difference between university teacher training and training in a college is in the time of internship. Universities require only very limited internship (a few hours of practice and teaching of a test lesson) while in teachers colleges it is an integral element of the training course.

Another aspect of upgrading teacher training has been the quality of applicants. In 2003, 94.9% of Jewish teacher training students had held matriculation certificates, compared to 27.8% in 1969–70 and 58.3% in 1979–80. In the Arab sector, 96% of students in 2003 held the matriculation certificate. 15.9% of Jewish students that year were men. The percentage of men in teacher training for Arab schools is declining with the years, from 46.9% in 1969–70 to 22.9% in 1990 and 12.9% in 2003. The figures reflect social developments in Arab society, where women, having gotten a higher education and more independence, turn to professional work as teachers, while men turn to other occupations.

Extracurricular (Informal) Education

Children and young people in Israel take part in various organized activities that are not included in regular school teaching. Those activities are referred to as "informal education," education that is not compulsory. Unlike school, the area, intensity, or character of activity is (or should be) freely chosen by the child. Informal education is associated with activities beyond intellectual learning with emphasis on the development of the child's personality and identity, concern about problems of the adult world, and development of social skills for successful social functioning and social integration.

The Ministry of Education in Israel participates in financing many extracurricular educational activities and organizations. In 2003, informal education was allotted 4% of its budget. The numbers and proportion of children who take part in various informal education activities is difficult to measure, because activities differ widely in their popularity; general estimates are that it engages about 20% of the young 14–17 years of age.

Informal education in Israel originated in youth activism of the Zionist organizations in Diaspora countries, at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. This continued with great intensity in the Jewish community in Palestine, before the establishment of the State of Israel. The "Pioneering Youth Movements" in Israel were a direct continuation of such movements in European countries before World War ii. They played an invaluable role in mobilizing youth for national pioneering enterprises. They successfully socialized the young generation into the ideology of Zionism and particularly the Labor-Zionist movement, served as hothouses for growing future elites and, mostly, were instrumental in creating the Israeli youth culture. At the center of it they were instrumental in creating the new iconic human prototype, the "Sabra," who is ever ready and able to perform the greatest national feats in conformity with Zionist goals. Youth Movement organizations were very conspicuous in the early days and they created the informal education tradition in Israel.

The prominence and strong positive image of the youth organizations continued into the 1950s; they attracted many children and youth age 10–18 and their ideology, culture, and education continued to be popular. Times were changing, the Israeli government was now the main agent of national enterprise; however, the reality of enormous tasks and little resources in early years left much space for voluntary activities such as the youth movements had undertaken. By the late 1950s, the ideological fervor characteristic of the early years following the War of Independence had waned and this had its negative effect on the popularity of youth movements. Their decline has been steady and continued even after they had changed their character as missionaries for national missions toward more personal character education and youth culture.

According to some social analysts, the youth-movement organizations have not accomplished their educational function because their fixed patterns of action, ideals, and images were bogged down in past reality rather than being meaningful to adolescents in the 1990s. Collectivist-egalitarian values were no longer popular in an Israeli society that had become oriented toward individualistic and materialistic goals, while the patterns of organized educational activities had little chance to compete with the many avenues of entertaining pastimes open to the young in the modern world. The exception were the religious-Zionist youth movements, which operated with renewed fervor mirroring the political struggles surrounding Jewish settlement in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip and continued to affirm nationalist values.

In the 1960s, new frameworks of informal education were established by state and local authorities, for young people who dropped out of school and for schoolchildren after school hours. Those informal education activities were actually an attempt to fill the gaps that formal education left.

Informal education in Israel currently operates in four main frameworks. The first are the youth-movement organizations. In 2002, 14 youth-movement organizations were registered with the Ministry of Education; they are being budgeted in proportion to the number of their members. The second framework is "supplementary education" which the educational system provides outside of regular school hours. Participation in supplementary education is optional and a matter of choice; the adult personnel is professional, operating under the supervision of the local authority and with the financial assistance of the Ministry of Education. Supplementary education activities take place in various locations, youth centers, community centers, schools, clubs, etc. A third framework of informal education is maintained for young people who are not in school or are employed in a work place and so are in danger of becoming alienated from normative social values. In this framework, activities may take place in "street groups," neighborhood "educational working groups," or boarding schools for youth at risk, that is, potential delinquents.

The fourth framework of informal education is Social Education at school, and it is conceived as semi-formal, in subjects that the curriculum does not deal with sufficiently. "Social Education," which actually means character education or socialization for socially accepted national values, is considered of the greatest importance in Israeli society. In the Ministry of Education there is a Youth Department with separate divisions for Social Education in elementary and secondary schools. Social Education is not a separate unit in schools and does not compete with regular curricular teaching and learning. It comes to complete the range of a school's educational goals in affecting the school's living atmosphere and interrelations by specific activities and structured experiences, student councils, election of students for various roles and positions, and other democratic practices.

[Rachel Pasternak (2nd ed.)]


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