Israel is the 2nd most educated country in the world: Why and how did we get there?

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development conducted research to determine the most educated countries in the world. Their list was determined by the percentage of each country’s population that had received college degrees. Israel was the second on the list with 46% of the population completing tertiary education. The number one country on the list was Canada, who was the only country with over 50% of their population obtaining college degrees. This is a clear reflection of the importance Israel puts on education.

Israel makes it a point to actively participate in the education of its citizens. According to the research from OECD, Israel’s high school graduation rate was an astonishing 92%, which is well above the worldwide average of 84%.

Part of the success in Israel’s education system is attributed to the Ofek Hadash (New Horizon) education reform implemented in 2008. This reform brought:

  • Increased wages for teachers
  • A higher quality education for students
  • Changes to educational employment conditions
  • Improved education curriculum and better structured of studies

Thanks to the reform, Israel has seen an increase in the salaries of elementary school teachers. Between the years 2005-2010, teachers’ wages increased by 32%. This is more than six times the OECD average of 5%. They have also increased the wages for high school teachers as well by 8%, which is two times the OECD average. Even with these improvements to wages, teachers in Israel still earn significantly less than other countries in the OECD. Israel also has the 13th lowest GDP per capita of the countries in the OECD. However, that only makes the number 2 spot more impressive and solidifies how much we care about education.

It didn’t happen overnight

The increased university graduation rate has been an ongoing process. Improvements to salaries have subsequently resulted in improved education standards and more pressure on students to complete their education. The high school graduation rate has increased from 89% in 2003 to 92% 2010 which is another area in which Israel is near the top of the list of OECD members.

Not only does Israel have high graduation rates, but the quality of the education received also helps set us apart. Every level of education (elementary, middle school, high school, and college) is expected to perform highly throughout the entire school year. Students receive the same level of teaching in summer courses as they do in full semesters, and are provided with a diverse curriculum as well. Even with lower wages, Israel still has some of the top teachers and universities in the entire world.

Another contributing factor to Israel’s educational success is the investment put into the education system. As the OECD list demonstrates, the most educated countries are those that allocate more of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to education. In 2009, Israel spent 7.2% of their GDP on educational institutions. This was the 6th most of the OECD members. Needless to say, this has been a wise investment.

There may also be a correlation between the amount of time students in Israel spend in classrooms and their high graduation rate. OECD’s report found that students in Israeli elementary schools spend 18% more hours than the OECD average. Similarly, Israeli high school students spend 16% more hours in class than the OECD average.

The cost of education in Israel makes it easier for students to afford a higher education as well. Many students in the U.S for example do not attend college due to financial reasons. In Israel, the cost to attend universities is not so high that it discourages students from attaining their diploma.

Studying in Israel in English

Israel’s outstanding education is available for everyone who wants to spend a summer, a semester or a year studying abroad. Many Israeli universities offer study abroad programs for undergraduate students or graduate students completely taught in English.