Sunday, May 18, 2008

Israeli Schools - Getting it Right

We have been in Israel for over 20 months now and during that time have moved three times.

We moved because we did not feel we had found ‘home’. Each move was in response to something negative (lack of community; too urban; not living in a religious area; not having the right quality of life; work/life balance…etc.)

Unfortunately, when we moved, as well as finding some of the benefits we were looking for, we also lost some of the good things in our previous day to day lives. Schooling, in particular, has proven to be a hard nut to crack. One child may be happy, another not; one school lacks something that another has; one school has friendlier, better controlled kids another has a bullying problem; one has better resources and learning support, another is less set up to cope with these needs.

Making decisions which are right for all members of the family is difficult. It is also true that problems that are experienced today often iron themselves out and can be worked through. I suppose there is a choice - staying and persevering to get things right or moving to find something which may (or may not) be better.

Life after aliyah throws up all of these challenges and, particularly where children are concerned, can make all the difference.

It’s always good to talk to other olim who have already been through the whole process of trying to find the best environment for their children. Here is the advice a few ‘veterans’ told me when I started to ask about school choices:

“Wherever you go you will find the same problems; it is not the school or the community, it is Israeli society”.

“Move and you may find the child who was unhappy has a better experience but the child who was happy does not….”

“You can move here, there and everywhere, but it won’t necessarily result in making everyone happy.”

“There is no comparison between what is in Israel with what you had back home – it is like apples and pears – just different”

Most olim, when you talk to them, made aliyah for their children, and ultimately it is the experience of the children that ends up dictating many of the decisions you make. You can plan your aliyah all you like, go on a pilot trip, speak to others… ultimately though you will be shaped by your own experiences and you would be extremely lucky to get it right first time.

My advice? Do your homework,

  • Talk to other parents, in particular find out the schools that the happy, well behaved, motivated kids go to.
  • Make visits during school hours so you can see how the kids behave in lessons and also during break.
  • Once your kids start school, ensure you have a good idea of how they are doing academically and socially.
  • Talk to the school, sort out any problems as early as possible and make sure you are able to benefit from all help available. If help is available, is it suitable in the current form? If it is not available, can it be made available?

To all of you planning aliyah – good luck. For all the difficulties, for all the ‘spanners in the works’, it is still a wonderful decision to make.