Finding the Right School for Your Child
When you make Aliyah, finding a school that fits your philosophy and values is a critical component of Aliyah planning. In the south of Israel, the vast majority of children in the school system are Israeli-born, allowing for an immersive Ulpan experience for your Oleh child. Your pilot trip is a great time to research schools, meet with the principals and teachers, and speak to other parents.
Here are some important factors to take into account when deciding upon schools:
Know the Lingo:
Understanding Israeli terminology will give you the tools that are necessary for searching for the right school system for your family.
Length of School Day:
It is critical to find out the length of the school day and afterschool options that work with your schedule.
Location of school:
Children are usually placed in schools according to zoning areas, something that should be taken into consideration when choosing a neighborhood. Some schools, however, are Al-Ezori (not determined by zoning area) so that you don’t need to live in the same area as the school of your choice.
Establish Your Rights:
As Olim, your children are entitled to Sha’ot Ulpan (hours during school time designated for separate Hebrew language instruction). Once you know which school your child will be attending, let your Aliyah advisor know so they can help you navigate the system. The number of hours of “Ulpan” your child receives – which is essentially hours during school designated for separate Hebrew instruction – depends on a number of factors.
Types of Schools
Elementary and high schools that provide a general studies education including a minimal amount of Tanach (Bible) study. Some of these schools offer a limited Jewish enrichment program. Classes are co-ed. High school graduates usually begin their army service after graduation. Some spend a year volunteering prior to their army service.
These elementary and high schools offer a dual curriculum of Judaic and general studies. There is a commitment to both a Torah-observant lifestyle and to the values of religious Zionism. Some of the schools are co-ed from 1st-6th grade whereas others separate the children starting in 4th grade. With a few exceptions, all of the junior high and high schools are single-sex. High school students take the Bagrut matriculation exams. The boys generally continue on to a one-year pre-army Mechina program (Torah study and army preparation) or Yeshivat Hesder (5–year, combined yeshiva and army service). and serving in the army. Some also study in a Midrasha (Torah learning program for women) for a year.
These elementary and high schools offer a dual curriculum of Judaic and general studies. A stronger emphasis is placed on the Torah studies and on the development of a rigorous religious atmosphere. There are separate classes, and in some cases separate schools for boys and girls in elementary school. All of the junior high and high schools are single-sex. The graduates of these schools follow a similar course as the Dati-Leumi or the Chardal population.
These schools are typified by a more stringent observance of Halachah (Jewish law). The boys’ schools focus mainly on Torah studies while providing a basic secular studies education. The girls’ schools offer a dual curriculum with a stronger emphasis on the Torah studies. All of the female students take the Bagrut matriculation exams. Some of the boys’ high schools follow the same course of study as in the Mamlachti-Dati schools, whereas others concentrate all of the Bagrut exams into the final year of high school. The boys continue on to Yeshivat Hesder or Yeshiva Gevoha whereas the girls continue on to 1 or 2 years of Sherut Leumi. Some also study in a Midrasha for a year.
Many cities and towns have local high schools. Parents often decide to send their children to boarding school. Each school has a different policy for returning midweek and Shabbatot which is very common in Israel. Schools also tend to have different focuses: some place an emphasis on the outdoors while others specialize in tech. If the school is not local, there may be an acceptance policy, so be in touch with the school as early as possible before your Aliyah. It is important to check if your community has a local high school or if children are sent to dormitory schools.
The university system in Israel can be very accommodating to new Olim. Israeli universities are internationally recognized and some are even ranked in the top 50 universities in the world. Hebrew lectures often include English readings. Advanced Ulpan is available, and several universities and colleges offer MA programs in English. Professors frequently allow Oleh students to answer exams in English . Attending university in Israel is a great way to get your foot in the door, make Israeli contacts within your field, and acquire essential Hebrew skills. A degree from an Israeli institution provides the experience that can make a significant difference in your academic future, as well as your professional career.
As Olim Chadashim, you may be entitled to higher education benefits, subject to certain criteria such as age, prior degrees, etc. For more information please click here.
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