At the time when the state of Israel emerged in the 1940's, education was administered and financed by local communities, religious organizations and labour organizations. Since 1953, Israel has had a unified state-administered school system. With this reform, diversity was not lost, and there are today 4 types of schools: Public secular; Public religious; Arab and Druze; and Private.
The public schools religious schools, known as Agudat, are outside the administration of the government, but financed over the state budget. The private schools are largely run by Catholic and Protestant organizations.
Education is free and compulsory for all citizens of Israel. Mandatory schooling lasts 12 years, from primary through to secondary school.
Expenditure on education was estimated at 6.9% of GDP in 2004, which by 2008 would give an expense at $2,000/capita, which makes Israel one of the highest education spenders in the Middle East.
Depending of the income of the parents students will have up to 100% of their costs covered.
Literacy in Israel is steadily growing. In 2000, 6% of women were illiterate, in 2008 it was down to 4%. Illiteracy among men seem to have stabilized at 2%.
In Israel, special education is provided for children with needs ranging from different physical impairments to those with behavioural and emotional problems. The authorities aim at providing necessary services for children with special needs in the normal school, but then often in special classes. For children with more serious needs, there are also several seperate and specialized institutions.
Kindergartens with a pedagogical program is offered free for all citizens from the age of 3. Kindergartens in Israel serve much the purpose of permitting women to work. Israel has a mixture of both private and public kindergartens.
Attendence is compulsory from the age of 5, serving as a preparation for normal school.
Primary school starts at the age of 6, and lasts 6 years. Attendance is today effectively 100%.
Israeli children go to school 6 days a week. The language of instruction in Jewish schools is Hebrew; in Arab schools it is Arabic. Courses in Arabic is an option in Jewish schools, while Hebrew is obligatory in Arab schools from the 4th grade.
The state religious schools emphasize Jewish studies, tradition, and observance.
Arab schools offer a curriculum that emphasizes Arab and Druze history, religion and culture.
The private schools operate under various religious and international auspices.
A unique characteristic of Israeli schools is that each year a special topic of national importance is studied in depth. Examples of such topics are democratic values, the Hebrew language, immigration, Jerusalem, peace, industry etc.
In 1999, figures show that the teacher pupil ratio was 1:13.
Middle school is a continuation of primary, lasting 3 years. Roughly 1/10 pupils at this level attend boarding school.
Secondary education is divided between those aiming to qualify for higher academic education, and those leading to vocational diplomas. 1996 figures show that 88% of all in each relevant age group attended secondary schools.
In the academic secondary schools, courses are offered at 5 levels of intensity, and pupils must follow at least one at highest intensity. All pupils must follow Hebrew; English; Mathematics, Scripture and Literature. The conclusion of this education are the matriculation exams, known as Bagrut.
The Bagrut tests pupils according to what courses and what intensities they have followed. The matriculation certificate is obtained by passing all exams at at least passing mark. The Bagrut is quite competitive. 75% in each age group take it, every 3rd of these fail. The success rate for Arab pupils is lower than for Jewish and Druze pupils, at 35% for the total age group.
A distinct type of schools at this level are the Yeshiva schools. These are boarding schools, offering full courses in the normal subjects, but also with intensive studies in Judaism and Jewish regulations.
Vocational schools specialize for technical, agriculture, military and many other vocations, like Bookkeeping; Electronics; Hotel trades; Graphic design; Mechanic etc.
Israel has today 8 universities, of which one is mainly involved in remote teaching. The country's university history goes back to before the establishing of the state, with the establishment of the Technion in Haifa in 1912, and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1918.
One university, the Bar-Ilan is offers mainly religious education.
Entry to university is by the Bagrut from secondary school, in addition to a specific test. But before Israelis enter begin studying at the university, they must finish their conscription with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Still, there is an alternative program to this, the Atuda, where the army pays for studies up to Bachelor's Degree in exchange for extended conscription, lasting 4 to 6 years.
Israeli universities are subsidized by the state, and there is a substantial tuition fee paid by all students.
Universities offer first a Bachelor's Degree, followed by a Master's.
Israel has a well-developed system of satellite campuses offering higher education in towns without universities. Some of these offer complete courses, leading to a finishing diploma, others initial courses, where the education is finished while attending the actual university.
There is the presence of several foreign universities in Israel, presently counting about 30, providing educational and research services for both Israeli and foreign students and academics.