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Part 1: An Overview of the Israeli School System

Making Aliyah is always an education for everyone. However, the Israeli educational system needs a primer unto itself. This series of short articles can help explain how the Israeli school system works and what that means for community Aliyah.

In general, Olim families of school-age children will choose their Israeli neighborhood based on how their kids will fare in school. Most Olim feel that if their kids are happy in school, then their Aliyah will ultimately be successful.

In considering community Aliyah, community members need to decide upon which educational system works best for their kehila. Whether communities choose to create their own schools or utilize the existing schools in the neighborhood, it’s important to know the ropes.

In Israel, there are 5 overall streams of education (not including the Arab school sector).

  1. Mamlachti: Public education in a non-religious framework

  2. Mamlachti Dati: (Mamad) Religious Zionist / Modern Orthodox public school

  3. Mamlachti Dati- Torani: Religious Zionist public school with extra Limudei Kodesh

  4. Mamlachti Charedi: (Mamach) Charedi public school

  5. Chinuch Atzmai: Independent (private) schools within the Charedi community

Because four of these educational streams are within the public school sector, the cost for these schools is mostly covered under the budget of the Ministry of Education. Chinuch Atzmai schools are partially funded by the Ministry of Education, with the remainder of the cost being covered by parents and donations. All schools have extracurricular programs, trips and textbooks / workbooks that must be paid for by parents.

Each of these educational streams have grades from preschool through high school. The Mamach and Chinuch Atzmai school systems have requirements for dress codes and family regulations for internet usage and overall media exposure. Some Mamad-Torani schools do as well.

All schools in Israel are taught in Hebrew (excluding the Arab schools). There are a few high schools that are taught in English and are specifically geared toward Olim who arrive as teens.

This means that Olim children will need to learn classroom Hebrew to manage in Israeli schools. To make this possible, the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Absorption assign Olim students hours of Hebrew tutoring within the school day (sha’ot olim). Often, these hours are not sufficient to teach the children enough Hebrew to manage in class. Extra hours of tutoring can usually be arranged at a reduced rate through the school, but must be paid for by parents.

Once Hebrew is mastered, a whole world of learning is open to your child. Rather than spend hours translating Limudei Kodesh texts, your Oleh child will read Tanach, Torah commentaries and even Mishnaic Hebrew much more easily and fluently. The original Hebrew language will shine through in all of its nuance.

To state the obvious, the advantage of this skill is priceless for developing our children’s academic success.

NEXT POST: Understanding pre-school in Israel.

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