Israeli colleges 101

Israeli colleges have something to offer everyone, which is why, since 1975, the percentage of Israelis with college degrees has soared.

August 8, 2019 08:48
Israeli colleges 101

ORT BRAUDE College, Karmiel.. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

It is said that there are three synagogues for every two Jews, and there just might be even more colleges for every Israeli. In addition to Israel’s well-established universities, there are more than 60 colleges throughout Israel – from Eilat to Kiryat Shmona – offering more than 300 different academic courses from cannabis for medical use to zoology.

Israeli colleges have something to offer everyone, which is why, since 1975, the percentage of Israelis with college degrees has soared; according to an Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study, Israel has the third-most college graduates per capita in the world. Almost half of Israel’s adult population now has a bachelor’s degree. In 2018, there were more than 100,000 new students entering Israeli colleges and universities; more are predicted for this academic year.
Because there are many more college graduates than before, it has grown more difficult to find jobs that match degrees – not because the number of jobs has decreased, but because the number of college graduates has accelerated.

Some analysts of millennials or Generation Y (the population born during the 1980s and early 1990s) believe that Israeli colleges don’t offer skills relevant enough for students to use to enter the marketplace. As Libby Singer, a 2018 graduate of the Academic and Technology College of Tel-Hai, outside of Kiryat Shmona, said, “Some of my friends got a BA degree in the humanities from various colleges and they’re back working as waitresses.” However, people with college degrees still earn more in Israel on average than those without degrees and there are fields that seek job applicants, such as engineering, medicine, nursing and teaching.

In an effort to spark entrepreneurship and innovation, Israel’s Council for Higher Education announced it was earmarking $27.7 million to several colleges and universities in Israel. In addition to major universities, such as Tel Aviv University, Bar-Ilan, Ben-Gurion and Haifa University, the CHE will also donate funds to Tel-Hai College, the Holon Institute of Technology and Sapir Academic College in Sderot to be used for “multidisciplinary brainstorming and collaboration between students and researchers.”

Most Israeli students start their studies after their compulsory military service, making Israeli students the oldest in the world, according to a 2015 OECD study. The average age to attain an undergraduate degree is 27, as opposed to ages 20 to 24 in most other countries. Of those students, more than half are women.

There has been a decrease in the proportion of those studying experimental sciences and an increase in students studying social sciences, humanities, business management and mathematics, which might be of value in the future, when some experts predict that computers and artificial intelligence will replace humans in the workplace, and “soft” skills – such as the ability to work with others – will become more valuable.

Most Israeli colleges are publicly funded, so that the annual tuition is exactly the same as in universities (which are all publicly funded in Israel). Tuition in publicly-funded institutions is about 10,000 shekels ($2,800 per year). Tuition at private colleges, such as The International Disciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, could run three times higher.

Some students would rather attend a smaller institution instead of a university in order to have more personal attention. Other students choose to attend a college if they are not accepted in the department of their choice at a university because, as one student explained, “What I study is more important than where I study it.”

The following is a brief guide to some Israeli colleges and what they offer students today.

• ORT Braude College of Engineering, Karmiel. The public college was established to increase the accessibility to higher education for residents in the Western Galilee, while providing financial, psychological and medical support to diversify the student body. The school is more commuter than residential, with most students coming from the local region. Mechanical engineering student Eli Temime, 34, now in his second year, commutes from his home near Nahariya. He said that by graduation, “nobody is left unemployed.” Students often land jobs at local companies including Elbit, Israel Aerospace Industry and Rafael Industries.
• Sami Shamoon College of Engineering began as a small boutique college and now has campuses in Ashdod and Beersheba. It offers research centers to give students opportunities to present their own start-ups to the public.
• Afeka College of Engineering, Tel Aviv. The college tries to steer students in its engineering programs toward relevant studies that will get them jobs by assigning projects that focus on finding solution for problems in industry. The college sponsors “Engineers without Borders,” like “Doctors without Borders,” a program that gives students the opportunity to plan and deliver engineering projects to solve problems of disadvantaged populations in Israel and abroad. Students also helped design a compact vehicle for future use in large cities; this project, Hagar, won first prize in a recent competition hosted by the Institute for Transport Innovation.

• Max Stern Yezreel Valley College, the Galilee. The announcement that the school will offer a degree in medical cannabis in Fall 2019 – the first of its kind in Israel – made big news. The program will include studies of botany and biology, product medicine and pharmaceutical use of medical cannabis.
The college also has a general humanities program. Neta Goren, 28, who lived in the college dormitory for the three years of her studies, earned a degree in behavioral studies, which included psychology, sociology and criminology. She was unable to get a job with her degree, but the program gave her a “strong foundation of knowledge,” and she appreciated the way the college cared about her. “We weren’t just another number,” Goren said, who went on to get a master’s degree and is now an elementary school teacher.
Students at the college come from nearby kibbutzim, moshavim, Arab villages, cities and towns, and many are the first-generation college students in their families.
Food Science and Bio-Technolory
• Academic and Technology College of Tel-Hai. This public college is known for its food science and bio-technology program; less known is its East Asian Studies Program. According to 2018 graduate Libby Singer, some of the students in the East Asian Studies Department traveled to Japan, China and India after their Army Service and upon returning wanted to live in a rural area and study these countries. Singer decided to study Chinese to “learn something that would be valuable in the marketplace.” Soon after graduation, she landed a job with a hi-tech company doing business in China. Two of Tel-Hai’s Chinese students – Singer and her classmate, Shahar Dangur – won first prize in the Israeli 2017 Chinese Bridge Competition two years in a row, beating out students from Israel’s large universities.

Sustainability, Government,
Communications and Economics
• Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya. The IDC is a private college that has academic tracks in Hebrew as well as the Raphael Recanati International School for undergraduates, taught in English, which draws students from around the world. Students earn internationally recognized BA and BSc degrees in three years. (Many BA and BSc degrees take four years in other countries.)
 Its Hebrew sustainability program attracts students who, according to Ari Ben Aharon, a recent graduate, “want to address the changes we desperately need to steer the earth in the right direction.” The Department encourages students to develop their own research ideas in sustainability. The college also has courses in government, communications and economics.

There are many fine law schools in Israeli universities; here are two colleges known for their law programs.
• College of Law and Business, Ramat Gan. The Bachelor of Law at the College is available in both English and Hebrew. The program appeals to students who might want to practice law in the United States but don’t want to pay high tuition for American law schools. The college also prepares students interested in the high-paced hi-tech atmosphere of Israel who might also want a career in international law.
• Sapir College, located on the outskirts of Sderot, is the largest public college in Israel. It has a highly regarded law school. On the creative side, students attending Sapir College’s Cinema Department have won awards in international film festivals.
Occupational Therapy
• Ono Academic College is a public college with two campuses; a larger one in Kiryat Ono and a smaller campus for the haredi population in Or Yehuda. Smadar Rosenberg, 29, studied occupational therapy at the former; Shira Levy, 25, studied the same field in Or Yehuda where she felt the campus suited her because her religious beliefs “were taken into consideration.” Levy studied in all-female classes; she said that in classes that are mixed, there is a separation in the classroom between male and female students. Rosenberg said that after studying at Ono College, it was not hard to find a job – she works in a day center for people with severe disabilities – but “it’s hard to find a job where you make good money.”

“The mediocre teacher tells,” writes educator William Arthur Ward. “The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
Israeli college spokesmen express the hope that colleges can train teachers to live by these words and meet the challenges posed by educational needs in the 21st Century.
• The curriculum at the Gordon Academic College of Education in downtown Haifa has been revised to embrace current trends, including digital media and how to use social networks to learn new skills in their professional and private lives. The College also works with Google Corporation to learn about innovative Google strategies resources. Orit Klein, 36, who studied special education and teaching students with hearing disabilities, is now head instructor at the first therapeutic horseback riding program in an Arab village in Israel, subsidized by the National Health Insurance Program. She uses tools she learned at college to teach them, helping them believe that “they can learn everything if given the chance.”
• Oranim Academic College of Education in Kiryat Tivon. Ronli Socolovsky, a 2014 graduate of Oranim who is now the head of the History and Civics Department at a high school in Kiryat Eliezer, said that he uses many skills he learned at Oranim in the classroom. What he finds most helpful is “the sense of self-awareness” he developed at the college which, he said, has given him “more empathy and understanding in dealing with students.”
The college has a wide variety of programs in addition to its teaching track, including Literature and Creative Expression, Jewish Philosophy, and Art.
• Kibbutzim College of Education, Tel Aviv. The college was established in 1939 by the Israeli Kibbutz Movement to train preschool and school teachers and is now celebrating its 80th year. In its teacher training, the college tries to incorporate humanistic and democratic values that have always been inherent in the Kibbutz movement. One of the college’s programs is the MAHUT Center for Empowerment and Insight, which assists students with learning disabilities.
• In addition to the above colleges, a range of alternative institutions offer different kinds of educational programs. Several colleges offer alternative therapies, including Chinese medicine, acupuncture, art therapy and reflexology, such as the Reidman International College for Complementary and Integrative Medicine, which has six campuses throughout Israel, and Karkur College in Pardess Hannah, which offers courses in alternative medicine.

After getting a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, Shlomie Shalem, 33, stated that he “realized he was drawn to non-traditional education.” He is now taking a course in Rebirthing, which “is a way to deal with traumas and anxieties.” He hopes to practice rebirthing therapy after finishing the six-month course.

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