Universal Periodic Review of Israel

The Israeli education system

  • The 1949 Compulsory Education Act was the first official legal action taken in Israel to enforce compulsory education, ensuring free school attendance for children, for 9 years, from age 5. In 2009, compulsory education was extended until grade 12, and in 2016 compulsory school enrolment was lowered to age 3.
  • State-funded Israeli general education works along a four-stream system, which provides secular, religious, and ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) educational institutions for Jewish Israelis. There are Arabic schools for the Arab, Bedouin, Christian Arab, and Druze Israeli minorities.
  • Hebrew-speaking schools are managed by Jewish principals while schools teaching in Arabic are coordinated by Arab principals. However, all principals are subjugated to a centralised Israeli administration, funding, and curriculum which ensures similar requirements and teacher-salaries.
  • Despite compulsory education starting at age 3, 47% of children are already enrolled in an educational institution before age 2. 99% of children between 3 and 5 was enrolled in an educational institution in 2019. 
  • It is commendable that more than half of the population, between 25 and 64 years-old, held tertiary attainment in 2019.
  • Broken Chalk is pleased to note that Israel spends 6.7% of its GDP on education which is above the 4.9% OECD average.
  • Between 2003 and 2017 dropout rates have fallen from 9.9% to 7.6% which is particularly remarkable since it ‘occurred primarily among the weakest students in the system’.
  • Despite all the investments and successes, the Israeli educational sector does show severe issues. Problems in the system are often related to the inequalities of the four-stream educational system, socioeconomic inequalities, and discrimination based on ethnicity.
  • For instance, Israel has one of the highest gaps in achievement, based on the best and worst performing students in PISA, among OECD countries.
  • Furthermore, enrolment numbers decline as studies proceed: enrolment amounted to 96.5% between age 6 to 14, while it was of 66.1% between age 15 to 19, in 2019.
  • As Israel has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child [CRC] in 2005, the state must commit to carry out its duties and obligations which include the insurance of free compulsory education and equal opportunity for all children. Thus, Broken Chalk urges Israel to address all issues which prevent the realisation of the rights enshrined in the CRC. 

Overview of the previous UN UPR cycle

  • In its national report prepared for the 2018 UN UPR, Israel particularly emphasized its efforts to ensure human rights in its territories, including access to education. Israel promised to work for closing educational gaps, and for the integration of minorities into the Israeli society, also through education. Efforts are reflected in the Resolution project from 2014-2017 targeting Druze communities to improve their education, and in the efforts to provide state funded higher education for the Arab communities through the CHE academic colleges.
  • Israel took further steps in expanding the number of years spent in education by lowering the obligatory school entrance age to age 3 and expanding after-school day-care services in 2017.
  • In the previous UPR cycle, Israel received 5 recommendations regarding the right to education, focusing on narrowing the inequality gap among different ethnicities. Israel supported 3 of these recommendations, however it rejected 2 which regarded the issues existing in Area C of the occupied territories in West Bank (see section IV.).

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