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Struggling to Make the Grade Israel’s Divided School System

December 23, 2005
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The Israeli school system is made up of several tracks. They include: State secular schools: These serve the majority of students — Jewish and non-Jewish — in Israel’s public school system.: 58 percent of elementary school students and 72 percent of intermediate and high school students.

Students here, as in the other public school sectors — including state religious and Arab and Druse schools — study the basic curriculum of Hebrew, math, science, English, Bible studies, physical education and art.

State religious schools: These schools for observant Jews have separate classes for boys and girls and additional school time allotted for prayer. Classes generally are smaller than in state secular schools and there is more of an emphasis on religious studies.

The schools enroll almost 19 percent of the country’s elementary school students and almost 18 percent of intermediate and high school students.

Arab and Druse schools: Schools for Israeli Arab students include those from Druse, Bedouin and Christian and Muslim communities. The schools made up of 23 percent of all elementary school students and nearly 22 percent of intermediate and high school students.

Classes are in Arabic, and Hebrew is studied as a second language. Religious classes in Islam are taught but students also study the Bible and Jewish and Zionist history.

Private, church-run Christian schools are available for Christian Arabs who seek a religious education.

Independent schools: These schools are outside the regular school system’s administration despite the funding they receive from the state. Most schools in the independent category are fervently Orthodox.

These schools serve 24 percent of elementary school students and 10 percent of intermediate and high school students. Hebrew or Yiddish is the language of instruction and most of the curriculum is religiously based, with little focus on secular subjects.

Also included among the independent systems are alternative schools such as the democratic schools, where part of the budget comes from a combination of state money and private tuition.

Figures are compiled from 2004 Israeli Education Ministry statistics.

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