This guide was written prior to the October 2023 escalation of hostilities between Israel and Palestinian militant groups. The ongoing conflict has markedly affected the safety and advisability of travel to the region. Please consult with relevant authorities and exercise extreme caution when considering travel to Israel and the surrounding areas.
The Israeli education system is strongly underpinned by the goals of teaching students to become responsible members of a democratic, pluralistic society in which people from different ethnic, religious, cultural and political backgrounds coexist, and to impart a high level of knowledge, with an emphasis on scientific and technological skills essential for the country's continued development.
The curriculum emphasises Jewish values, love for the land, principles of liberty and tolerance, and scientific and analytic skills while aiming to reflect Israel's diverse population, which includes Jews, Arabs, Druzes and others.
Schools in Israel are generally more informal compared to those in America and the UK, and teachers and principals are addressed by their first names. The curriculum tends to be broader than that found in North American schools and emphasises mathematics, science and foreign language learning.
Kindergarten and elementary schools follow a progressive model, valuing experience and social exchange, as well as creativity, play and emotional development.
While Hebrew is the primary language of instruction in institutions of higher education, many programmes and courses are also offered in English. There are also schools where Arabic is the primary language of instruction.
The academic year in Israel runs from September to July. The Israeli school week runs from Sunday to Friday, with Friday being a shorter day, but schools don't operate on Saturdays (Shabbat)
Public education in Israel
Israel provides free and compulsory education for all children from the age of three to 16 years. While tuition is free, textbooks and school supplies usually need to be purchased. Other fees are generally required for extra-curricular activities, such as school trips.
Although the public education system is of a generally high standard, many expats don't enrol their children in public schools as the language of instruction is Hebrew or Arabic.
Private education in Israel
Private schools in Israel follow the basic curriculum as set by the state, but they follow different teaching standards and philosophies. As such, there are some English-language private schools in Israel, which might be an attractive option for expat children who aren't fluent in Arabic or Hebrew.
Private schools can be extremely expensive for those earning a local salary, but the quality of education tends to be better than that of a public school. Those earning expat salaries will find that private education in Israel is considerably less expensive than in their home country.
Applying to a private school in Israel
Private schools can be highly competitive and many require rigorous testing before admitting a student. Applications usually require proof of academic record and any extracurricular activities. Students typically undergo verbal reasoning and English proficiency tests, a maths test and, in some cases, a science test. The head teacher may also interview prospective students.
- Explore the differences between public and private schooling in Israel at the Nefesh B'Nefesh Aliyahpedia.
International schools in Israel
There are also a number of international schools in Israel that expat parents can send their children to. The benefit of international schools is that they provide a high quality of education while also allowing for academic continuity, as many expat students are given the opportunity to continue with the curriculum of their home country. International schools in Israel also offer an extremely diverse cultural setting, as expat children will be classmates with students from all over the world.
A drawback of international schools is their school fees, which are considerably higher than that of both public and private Israeli schools. Most international schools in Israel are in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, and provide the English, US or French curricula.
Read more about International Schools in Israel.
Colleges and universities in Israel
Israel has a total of 10 universities, most of which are based in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa. Courses are generally taught in Hebrew but some English courses are taught, and accelerated Hebrew language learning programmes are offered which cater to foreign students who want to study in Israel.
Foreign applicants who wish to study in Israel must submit their high school diplomas to the institute that they are applying to. The strength of the diploma will then be weighed against the Israeli bagrut, the matriculation examination used in the university admissions process.
By law, the minimum length of study for a bachelor's degree is three years. Exceptions are nursing, engineering, architecture and law degrees, where degrees are granted after four years of study.
- For international students, the Study in Israel: Official Guide provides valuable insights.
Special-needs education in Israel
Israel has a law of inclusion in place for children with special needs. Parents are able to choose whether they wish for their children to attend mainstream schools where they will be included in regular classes, a special-education class in a mainstream school or a special-needs school. Some schools also have a system in which children spend their school day partly in regular classes and partly in special-education classes. The aim of this is to decrease the number of students in special-education classes for the purpose of inclusion.
While schools are expected to have all the facilities and professionals available to assist all children with their educational needs, budget shortfalls have prohibited this in some cases. Parents should therefore do their research into what their chosen schools can accommodate before making a decision between mainstream and special-needs schools.
- The Ministry of Education's Special Education Department provides guidelines and resources for special-needs education.
Tutors in Israel
Tutoring is a rather large industry in Israel, with many parents hiring private tutors for their children. These tutors can be useful in helping expat children adapt to their new curriculum and school environment, assisting them with learning Hebrew or Arabic, as well as with school support in any subjects the child may be struggling.
Online tutors and in-person private tutors are available throughout Israel. Expat parents can look for a tutor on one of the many tutoring websites, such as Janglo or Tutoroo, or they can ask their child's school or fellow parents for recommendations.
►See International Schools in Israel for a comprehensive list of international schools in the country
Are you an expat living in Israel?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Israel. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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