Educational Tracks

Israeli schools are divided into four different tracks: state-secular (Mamlachti), state-religious (Mamlachti dati), independent religious (חרדי Haredi or חינוך עצמאי Ḥinuch Atzmai), and Arab. There are also private schools which reflect the philosophies of specific groups of parents (Democratic Schools), or that are based on the curriculum of a foreign country (e.g., The American International School in Israel). The majority of Israeli children attend state schools. State-religious schools, catering to youngsters from the Orthodox sector (mainly Religious Zionist/Modern Orthodox), offer intensive Jewish studies programs, and emphasize tradition and observance. The Chinuch Atzmai schools focus almost entirely on Torah study and offer very little in terms of secular subjects. Schools in the Arab sector teach in Arabic, and offer a curriculum that emphasizes Arab history, religion, and culture.

The proportions of pupils attending schools in the Haredi and Arab sectors are increasing; according to a demographic study published in 2009, Haredim and Arabs together will amount to 60% of Israel's elementary school population by 2030. Haredim and Arab citizens are underrepresented in both the Israel Defense Forces and the workforce, since both groups are exempt from the otherwise compulsory military service, and in many Haredi sects men choose to focus only on religious studies throughout their life and rely financially on support from co-religionists, the State, etc.

The Haredim's lack of mainstream education, and consequent low participation in the workforce, are regarded by many in Israel as a social problem. The Council for Higher Education announced in 2012 that it was investing NIS 180 million over the following five years to establish appropriate frameworks for the education of Haredim, focusing on specific professions. Israel's Ministry of Education’s statistics from 2014 show that only about 22 percent of Haredi students take matriculation exams, since Orthodox yeshivot mostly ignore core subjects. About 8 percent of Haredi students pass the exam. Miriam Ben-Peretz, professor emeritus of education at the University of Haifa, and winner of the 2006 Israel Prize notes: “More and more Israeli students don’t have any foundation of knowledge, any basics — not in math, not in English, not in general...things have to change." Some Israelis who have been educated in Haredi yeshivas have established Leaving for Change (LFC), an organization seeking to sue the government for alleged failure to enforce Israel's law for compulsory education.

In 1984, the first integrated schools which had both Jewish and Arab students coexisting in a classroom were built by the residents of Neve Shalom – Wāħat as-Salām, a cooperative village founded by Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel. Today, this school receives some support from the state. Two more integrated schools were opened in Jerusalem and Galilee (Galil Jewish-Arab School) in 1997 by Hand in Hand: Center for Jewish Arab Education in Israel. As of 2010, there were five integrated schools in Israel, including that of Neve Shalom.