Local Principal Takes Stand on Cheating

We often hear stories about condoning cheating in Israeli schools, and in the religious sector as well. One a retired teacher told me she didn’t see anything wrong with it. She cheated as a student, and her children did, too.

A Not-So-Subtle Cheating Technique
Image by Mr_Stein via Flickr

So I found it refreshing when my daughter’s high school principal canceled this year’s hachtarah,   after senior girls texted answers to friends during an important exam. In Israeli religious schools the hachtarah rates somewhere between an American senior prom and homecoming. But instead of crowning a queen, they crown the Rabbanit Purim (rebbetzin, or rabbi’s wife). The focus is humor, not beauty.

The principal knew the girls wouldn’t give up on the event, so she asked the mayor to make sure it wouldn’t be local. The girls had to rent a hall in a neighboring town and sell tickets. My daughter and her friends wouldn’t go, and I’m curious how many showed up.


  1. it’s so pervasive in medical and dental schools that I’ve heard students brag about how they plan to cheat.

    • LeahGG, I’m sorry to hear that. I hope my doctors/dentist didn’t cheat!
      Maya, I hope they won’t see it as normal.
      Mrs. S. Good point. I suspec I would let a 12th grader make that decision on her own.
      Shira or Sara: Thank you for sharing the teacher’s perspective and I’m glad the picture is not so bleak. I’d be interested in a guest post from either of you about teaching in Israeli schools.

  2. Wow… I had no idea cheating was so common, though it makes sense. Cheating bothers me immensely and I hate the idea that my kids will see this as normal (and probably as “not being a frier”).

  3. The principal knew the girls wouldn’t give up on the event
    I don’t understand this. The principal decided to cancel the hachtarah, and yet the girls – presumably with their parents’ knowledge and permission! – had the nerve to have one anyway?!

  4. I was once a bagrut inspector, when I caught a kid with books, on the toilet, I was greeted on exit by a group of 4 or 5 nothing happened fortunately but could have. And the problem is far worse on the secular schools. I don’t really care actually. based on a lie, Israeli society will not go far anyway.

  5. not all high school teachers here accept cheating (on papers, tests and so on). many of us are against it and fail kids, talk to parents, talk to the kids and work very hard so they won’t cheat. i am shocked by what the retired teacher told you.

  6. As a teacher here in Israel, I can tell you there is a zero tolerance policy on cheating. The entire staff is always on alert, backpacks are put in the front of the class every test, no cellphones out, no pencil cases. Whenever I write a test for my classes, I need to write two versions, called Row A and Row B, so that two kids sitting at the same desk won’t have an identical test.

    For what it’s worth, I teach at a secular high school. I taught at an ulpana for many years, where there was kind of an honour code enforced, and we were purposely not supposed to watch too carefully, so that the kids would feel we trusted them. Of course they cheated anyway…And then when the bagrut came around, and no one could cheat, you saw what each student was really worth.

    It is an Israeli thing. I was shocked at a family gathering a couple of weeks ago when a relative bragged how he had copied all his papers and tests for his BA. And his mom was proud, she insisted it was common sense to do what you have to do to get by in life. I was very unhappy that all my kids were there, listening to these values coming from the mouths of people they really respect.

  7. There are a number of Ulpanot and Yeshivot who make a point of “honor” exams with no cheating.

    An example I have heard of is the Rav Baran ulpena in Gedera who have approval for Bagrut exams without supervisors.

  8. I’d be honored to do a guest post. How does that work? Just let me know what exactly you’d like me to write about….

  9. I have never seen any tolerance towards cheating in any of the schools I went to. Some kids would try to cheat, most didn’t and of those who tried, if they were caught it was handled with great severity.

    I’m not sure why you’re making this into an Israeli trait? From movies I’ve seen about American schools cheating in tests seems to have become an art form.

    Some people cheat, I would think that’s happening in any society. Unless you can come up with documented statistics, I wholeheartedly object to this statement:

    “One of the sad facts about Israeli life is how acceptable it is to cheat on tests”

    It is certainly not my experience.

  10. I thought I had commented on thi spost. Congratulations to your daughter and her friend.