One of the keys to a child’s academic and social success in Israel is his or her ability to interact in Hebrew in the classroom and in informal social settings. While some teens may have a day school background in Hebrew, it is usually not sufficient for everyday life. To address this need, there are a few English speaking educational programs and schools.
Advantages of Studying in English
The advantage is clear. The teen will be less frustrated than he/she would be sitting in a classroom without understanding the material or missing out on class instruction in order to attend Ulpan lessons. Your star, who may have been an honors student in North America or the UK, can still excel even though he/she moved half way across the world. One of the most beneficial outcomes of high school curriculum taught in English is that it can prevent students from feeling unaccomplished or incompetent.
Several English language high schools are available for Olim who prefer to study in this kind of environment: YTA for Boys, and YTA for Girls is a modern Orthodox school in Jerusalem. The Naale Program has several options around the country.
For a listing of high schools and programs that offer English-language study, please be sure to check the “High Schools for English Speakers” option when searching the school database.
Advantages of Studying in Hebrew
Attending an Israeli school can be highly beneficial both socially and academically. An immigrant’s successful integration is dependent on his/her ability to understand the cultural norms. Communicating with their peers, reading newspaper and magazine articles, listening to Israeli music, playing sports, participating in extra-curricular activities, and learning how to navigate their way around the country are all ways in which an Oleh teen can gain confidence.
A rite of passage for the majority of high school student in Israel is taking Bagrut (matriculation) exams. Parents should familiarize themselves with the special accomodations that Misrad Hachinuch offers Olim and pay careful attention to the cut off age for each type of leniency.
For a full listing of the leniencies for Olim, see: Bagrut Leniencies for Olim.
In addition to the academics, parents should reflect on the social outcomes of sending their children to schools where they will socialize exclusively in English with other recent immigrants who are also less attuned to the norms and culture of Israeli society. Parents need to supplement activities that will aid their teens in the integration process. Participation in youth movements, after-school clubs (Chugim), sports, Israeli summer camps, and volunteer work are some of the ways that these teens can successfully acculturate into Israeli society.
Aliyah requires foresight and fore planning. It is important to carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages of sending your teenage children to English speaking programs and the potential effects on their short and long term integration into Israeli society.