This is just one in a series of ongoing posts on the educational innovations in Israel. You can see additional coverage here. Israel is the #2 country in the world for students going to university and Israeli Jews have among the lowest unemployment rates for those under 30.
Israel is home to the most start ups and PhDs per capita and is known for a culture that breeds creativity. It seems it might be worth taking a look at some of their educational practices that result in such success. Fortunately, I had an opportunity to do just that serving as one of five edubloggers to take in part in the #VibeEdu Innovation in Education Tour organized by Vibe Israel, a non-profit nonprofit focused on changing the way people think and feel about Israel. I spent a week crossing the country, visiting places schools and other educational institutions and meeting with the students and adults that are responsible for ensuring Israel remains a hub of innovation, and entrepreneurship.
While I was there, I learned these surprising facts that are in play in their education system. As you read each one, forget what you've been told about what education should be or has to be. Instead, think about what practices could be put in place in your school, district, or community to help students there achieve success.
#1 Schools are segregated
Most schools are segregated by religion and race as follows: 1-Secular schools offer the state-education curriculum in Hebrew as set by the Ministry of Education 2-Orthodox schools offer state-religious education in Hebrew, with greater attention devoted to religion and Jewish culture 3-Arab schools offer the state curriculum in Arabic, in combination with a greater focus on Arab history, culture and beliefs.
#2 Boarding schools are for disadvantaged youth
In America Boarding schools are usually for privileged. In Israel they are mainly for disadvantaged youth and funded by the government. About 9% of the schools are boarding schools. This post shares an example of what one school looks like: http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.co.il/...
#3 Progressive schools are government funded
Progressive schools such as Democratic, Montessori, and Waldorf are all part of the national school system + funded by the government on a per pupil basis. Most people I spoke with found it strange that the United States government did not allocate money to all types of schools on a per-pupil bases. They referred to these type of schools as “unique”
# 4 Democratic schools are popular
Israel has more Democratic schools than any other country. About 25 of 4200 schools are Democratic. The move to embrace Democratic schools delights some and worries others. A list of those schools is here.
#5 University is popular
Israel is #2 in the world for number of students who go to university. Wondering who is number 1? Canada.
#6 There is an Apprenticeship Law
Youth can choose not to attend a conventional school and instead study for a trade at an approved vocational school. Apprenticeship programs are provided by the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Labor in schools affiliated with vocational networks. Programs usually consist of two years of classroom study followed by one/two years during which students study three days a week and work at their chosen trade on the other days. Trades range from hairstyling and cooking to mechanics and word processing. Read more here.
#7 Assessment is changing for Innovation
Israel is in the second year of 70% assessment is standardized tests and 30% of assessment is customized by teacher. Previously it was 100% standardized tests. This is considered revolutionary to help promote innovation and Eyal Ram Director of Educational Workers Administration, Ministry of Education believes the less the country relies on standardized tests the more the country will promote innovation.
#8 There is a national curriculum
There is a uniform subject matter that is covered throughout the system. Schools can choose from a wide range of study units and teaching materials, provided by the Ministry of Education.
#9 Students are not over-tested with standardized assessments
Students in Israel only have standardized assessment once in the students final year when they are 17 or 18. It is not unusual for those who do not pass these tests to try taking them again after military service and pass them.
#10 Most Jewish teens are trained to use fire arms
Nearly every Israeli Jew (with exceptions such as Pacifists and Orthodox) is trained to use a weapon at around age 18 or 19, including those with disabilities.
#11 Most students serve in the military
Students (except for some i.e. Orthodox, Pacifists, Arabs) enter the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) at 18 and don't start college until about 21 or 22. Women usually serve about 2 years and men about 3 years. The IDF is one of Israeli society's most prominent institutions, influencing the country's economy, culture, political scene, and contribution to developing a well educated society and workforce.
#12 The Israeli school and work week is different than America’s
Israel's Sundays are like Mondays in America. Sunday is their back to-work-day. High Schools are closed Friday and Saturday. Elementary are short day on Friday and closed on Saturday.
#13 Few schools are free and nearly all receive per pupil funding
Most Israeli schools are funded via a combo of government + families. Free is usually for reserved only for the poor.
#14 Most Israeli children join a local youth movement.
The word movement is important. It is not just a program, but a movement with a mission to promote social action or change. Each movement has its own philosophy (which might be political, religious, or both). Students usually begin attending activities when they are in 4th grade. In high school some students become movement leaders.
#15 Teachers are called by their first name
Israel has a culture of informality which can been seen in schools as well as businesses. One way this presents itself is in the practice of students calling teachers by their first names.
These are some of the surprising facts I discovered during my week in Israel. Did you any of these facts surprise you? Which did you find most surprising? Least surprising? Are there ideas you think would benefit your school or district? If so, please share in the comments.
Interested in learning more about Vibe Israel’s #VibeEdu Tour? Check out the tour site here or follow their work at:
Photo credit: Amit Shemesh - www.amitshemesh.com
Lisa Nielsen writes for and speaks to audiences across the globe about learning innovatively and is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on “Passion (not data) Driven Learning,” "Thinking Outside the Ban" to harness the power of technology for learning, and using the power of social media to provide a voice to educators and students. Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities to support learning in real and innovative ways that will prepare students for success. In addition to her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator, Ms. Nielsen’s writing is featured in places such as Huffington Post, Tech & Learning, ISTE Connects, ASCD Wholechild, MindShift, Leading & Learning, The Unplugged Mom, and is the author the book Teaching Generation Text.