Gifted Education in Israel

A reader whose child was being tested for giftedness asked me to write about the Education Ministry’s programs.


Israeli children are tested for giftedness in second or third grade, depending on the municipality. To be accepted into the education ministry’s programming for the following year, a child must pass two tests.

The first test, known as Shlav Aleph, takes place within the school. Parents are notified in advance so they can opt out.  Usually schools send the five top-scoring children from each class to the second test.  If your child isn’t chosen, it’s relatively easy to get accepted for the second test.

The second test, Shlav Bet, is administered in a local elementary school by a testing agency. There are five parts: math, reading comprehension, word analogies, general knowledge, and a fifth part, probably visual series but I am not sure. I heard once that the general knowledge section is not counted in the final score. There is talk about rewriting the test because it grades achievement and not innate intelligence. About two-thirds of the children who pass are boys.

Each section is timed individually, so children should try to answer every question. There are people who prepare children privately for the test. No one can say whether this helps, and the education ministry does not approve. Parents might be better off spending their money on some other kind of enrichment suited to their child.

The education ministry recognizes the difficulties of new immigrants and makes the test available in English and Russian. There is even a way for bilingual children to opt out of the verbal section. Immigrants who have been here a few years might not have kept up in their native language, and their Hebrew does not yet reflect their high ability. Children with learning disabilities can take the test under relaxed conditions.

Some private schools allow students to be tested and some don’t. However, you can test privately for a reasonable fee. This may be an option if you feel your child should have passed, because if you appeal you have to wait until the next year to test again through the education ministry.

About 1-1.5% of schoolchildren pass the second test. The percentage is calculated by geographical area, meaning that scores of “gifted” children in a development town will generally be lower than those from a wealthier area. The top 5%  of scorers are eligible for an after-school “excellence” program.

There are two types of gifted programs in Israeli schools.

Gifted class

Some larger cities have a gifted class.The children who pass the test in a given year are bussed to that school and are taught by a teacher trained in gifted education. This class stays together through 12th grade and starts taking university classes in high school through the Open University. Petach Tikva’s gifted class serves children in the secular school system from the surrounding areas.

Pull-Out Program

In some areas children attend a pull-out program one full day a week. In Petach Tikva, the religious schools are served by a pull-out program. They don’t learn the regular school subjects on a higher level like they do in the gifted class. The children receive three high-quality chugim, enrichment courses, for the cost of one. The municipality contributes funds, so children from outside of Petach Tikva pay more. Scholarships are available and a group of Ethiopian children participated for a while.

The organizer of the pull-out program, a teacher in the religious girls’ high school, looks for teachers enthusiastic about their subjects.  She gives them a budget and a lot of leeway. Courses have included astronomy, law, medicine, art, photography, logic, comics, rocketry, and microbiology.

Which is better, a gifted class or a pull-out program?

The gifted six-day-a-week class offered by the secular system is considered stressful and competitive, although a lot may depend on the individual class. These kids have less interaction with the “normal” people that they will have to deal with for the rest of their lives. On the other hand, the once-a-week program is not nearly enough for many kids who suffer from boredom in a regular class. This isn’t always a function of intelligence—personality plays a large role. Some super-bright kids find a way to get the right kind of stimulation, and some don’t. But a gifted child who doesn’t complain or act out may still not be getting what he or she needs in the classroom. And it is difficult to address those needs in a regular Israeli classroom.

The program in the religious schools finishes in sixth grade. They have tried to add a year or two, but fewer children are interested at that point. Some junior high schools don’t have regular classes on Friday, so the kids don’t get the attraction of missing a day of school.

College in high school

The programs are not free, and children and parents opt out for financial or other reasons. But even if your child doesn’t plan to participate, it may be worthwhile to take the test. Children on the education ministry’s list of gifted students  can get a 50% tuition refund for university courses taken in high school. The Open University welcomes capable high school students (not only those who have passed the test) with open arms. All you need is a report card and a recommendation from the school. Credits from the Open University can be transferred. Other universities may require completion of the bagrut (matriculation exam) in a particular subject.

You can find more information in Hebrew at the Education Ministry’s Gifted Department website (Internet Explorer only) and in English.

Open University’s Guide for High School Students (Hebrew)

Your Daughter is Smart, but You Don’t Have to Worry

Questions to Ask When Choosing a School

A reader asked me to post a link to the  private, Bar-Ilan, accelerated math program. It begins in 7th grade and holds classes throughout the country.


  1. Ra’anana has a pull-out once a week program through junior high school (Citah Tet), mixed religious and secular.

    For the past three years, there has been a gifted full-time class at Ostrovsky High School.

    This year, for the first time, they are starting a full-time gifted class in junior high school at HaSharon in seventh grade (my son will be in it). The kids in the pull-out program tested for it, along with kids recommended from all the elementary schools. The class will eventually ‘feed into’ the Ostrovsky program.

    The kids will continue to do the ‘pull-out’ once a week for the enrichment activities, but they will do it as a class. I think this will be great for them, since there will be less disruption to the regular curriculum. With the once a week pull-out from his class, my son was continually missing tests, important events, etc.

    • mominisrael says

      Thanks, Allison. I’m confused. Do you mean there os no full-time class for elementary school, only for high school? That’s too bad. I think they need it even more in elementary school.
      In theory the schools are not supposed to plan special activities for that day, but they do anyway.

  2. Another option, outside of each city’s local programs or classes, are afternoon hugim once a week at HaKfar Hayarok campus (for gifted children), from 4th grade onward.
    HaKfar Hayarok also has a gifted “class” beginning at the Jr. High School level, starting from 7th grade – and is open to anyone from the entire central region (application process includes interview & testing).

    Also, if a child was not tested or did not pass the gifted tests in elementary school, you can do a test through Machon Karni (in Kfar Saba) which is subsidized, to determine whether they are gifted and eligible for gifted programs.

  3. I’m not Jewish myself, but I would make the observation to be born Jewish almost implies being gifted. I know I’m over simplifying reality but when you look at stories of success those of Jewish descent are certainly well represented.

  4. Very, very interesting. There is no such thing as tests for giftedness in France. I suppose one of the reasons is that we are supposed to be all equal and receive the same education. However some schools are empirically setting up gifted classes as they feel the need to accomodate for gifted pupils.

  5. Betzalel says

    Very nice insight, Hanna! Tell me: are these children just being helped or prepared to be leaders? It makes sense to ‘detect’ giftedness children by tests and not by their ‘inability’ to keep up with peers?

  6. Yes, right now there is no full-time class in Elementary school.

    Starting next year there will be a class in 7th grade, and in high school – 9th, 10th, 11th.

    In three years, it will be a full track of 7-12th.

    I think a big part of the reason they did this was because students were going to Cfar HaYarok and they wanted to keep them in the municipality.

    Chris, that is a massive generalization! No ethnic group is gifted across the board.

  7. Thanks for the info. Since we are just starting kita aleph this year, this was very helpful.

    Does the testing happen at all schools or just ironi?

  8. mominisrael says

    Rachky, thanks for the additional information.
    Chris, Allison is correct.
    I-D, interesting.
    Betzalel, some gifted kids are quiet and overlooked by teachers, especially girls. And testing avoids pressure being put on the people making the decisions. They are supposed to be teaching leadership, but whether it’s effective I can’t say.
    Abbi, some of the private schools send their students for the second test and some don’t. If not and you think your child would be eligible you can test privately through Machon Karni.

  9. When we had some issues with the ministry of Education they insisted many times on saying that these tests do not find gifted children, only the children who can best benefit from the classes!

    Also, if your child does have some sort of writing or reading problem you need to get them an “ivchun” (cant remember the English for this – but a test from a psycologist saying why they need their special requirements to be taken into consideration when doing these tests).

    In our area there is no advance notification of when the first test will take place.
    The courses for the childnre in college were very expensive so my son’s friends did not participate.
    My daughter took the courses for 2 years and then in 6th grade they clashed with Bat Mitva classes so she left the course.

  10. mominisrael says

    Did you have an evaluation from the school, or did you have to do it privately?
    I’m not sure if you are talking about regular university courses? Unless the army pays, you will have to pay the regular price for the credits once they graduate. So whatever they do in high school for half price is a bargain, even if it is on top of high school tuition.
    The school is at fault for not notifying you in advance. You should complain.

  11. Maybe I was not clear,
    the courses I meant are the same sort of enrichment classes about which you posted. They take place in a local college in our area.