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Chinuch Starts At HOME: Part 3

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

Part 3: The Bagrut

In our previous newsletter article about education, we discussed Israeli preschool programs. Now we are jumping ahead to the high school matriculation exams. While it’s chronologically out of order, I’m choosing to highlight areas in Israeli education which are most unlike American education, and therefore need more explanation.

If you’re baffled by the Bagrut, welcome to the club.

In American high schools, students graduate with a GPA (grade point average) of their mandatory and elective classes. To apply to college or university, students take the SATs or the ACTs and submit the test results along with their GPA, student clubs and activities list and an essay or two.

In Israel, things are different. Here we have the Bagrut system. (Plural: Bag-ri-yot) These are tests that demonstrate a student’s proficiency in a variety of mandatory and elective subjects.

In order to apply for higher education within the Israeli education system, a student must have passed the Bagrut, not only graduate from high school. Furthermore, one’s Bagrut grades can determine which path one takes in the IDF and which advanced courses are available to him / her. Potential employers can ask whether a prospective hire has a Bagrut.

For students in Chareidi school systems which often do not provide secular studies, there are a few options for those who would still like to graduate with Bagrut. Some Chareidi yeshivot katanot (9th through 12th grades) provide time to study for the Bagrut, though they may not provide for in-school instruction. Some Chareidi students study independently (or with tutors) for a Bagrut after yeshiva ketana, and then take the tests in a similar way that American students might take the GED.

So, what are Bagriyot (plural) exactly?

Bagriyot are tests that are taken in 11th and 12th grade. Students choose the degree of difficulty in each subject and take the Bagrut to match that level. Bagrut levels range from 1 (unit) point to 5 (unit) points- 5 points being the highest level of difficulty. The Ministry of Education writes the tests, which are updated every year.

Subjects for the Bagrut

  • 3–5 points of English language (written and oral) and literature

  • 3–5 points of Mathematics

  • 2 points Civics

  • 2 points General and Israeli history

  • 2 points Hebrew and translated world literature (+Jewish thought in religious schools)

  • 2 points Hebrew grammar and composition

  • In religious schools – 3-5 points of Hebrew Bible, 3-5 points of Oral Torah and Talmud

  • At least one 5-point elective, such as geography, physics, chemistry, biology, computer science, electronics, Arabic, foreign languages, social sciences, expanded physical education etc.

It is also possible to expand a 2 point discipline to 5 points, or to write an academic-style thesis worth 5 points in a certain discipline.

Students must take and pass at least one subject matter exam at the 5 (unit) point level of difficulty and earn a total of at least 20 combined study points in all Bagrut exams taken.

How on earth are our non-native kids going to take and pass these exams?

Stay tuned to hear about the leniencies that the Israeli education system puts in place for children who make aliyah.

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