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Promoting creativity and innovation in Israel Education System - A policy perspective

Written by 
Ariel Cegla , Training Development Officer, The Aharon Ofri MASHAV International Educational Training Center - Jerusalem  2016


Israel is considered to be a very creative country, due to the fact that the country is ranked very high in different indicators of innovation and creativity: It is considered to be a “Start Up Nation”, because of the high numbers of Startups companies that are being born within the country; It is ranked very high in the number of patents that are being registered in the US; and It had a number of Nobel Laureates over the last years.

In an effort to understand and explain this characteristics, I will analyze the Israeli Education System, trying to identify different features that allows and encourage the development of creativity and innovation skills within the students and future citizens of Israel.

A system that serves heterogeneous population

In general terms, when we look and analyze the general structure and characteristics of the Israel Education System, it can be argue that we are looking at a system that serve a very heterogeneous population (Herkavi & Mendel-Levi, 2014), a system that present a diversity of programs and features (Weisblay & Vininger, 2015; Addi-Raccah, 2015; Gibton, 2011), a system with a high level of flexibility and a system in a process of decentralization, where schools are running in an autonomous management model in which their level of responsibility, accountability and decision is very high (Addi-Raccah, 2015; Yemini, Addi-Raccah & Katarivas, 2014).

All this characteristics, create a reality in which “school principals enjoy discretion over their actions, as long as they advance and improve student achievement. These trends enable school principals to take advantage of the opportunities within their school environments to mobilize resources, promote new initiatives and lead change in their schools and communities. Within this context, principals can be regarded as entrepreneurs who not only comply with institutional pressures (improving academic achievement) and regulations (demands for accountability), but also take a proactive role to advance initiatives and changes that reflect their own interests and respond to the needs of their particular school” (Yemini et al., 2014, p.2).

Diversity in the Structure of the Education system

The Israel Education System, present a number of sub-divisions and departments in its basic structure, that create a system with high level of internal diversity. This diversity, try to adapt the system to the variety of needs that rise from such a heterogeneous society. As it presented on an official report from the Israeli Parliament:  “The complexity of the Israeli society and the human texture that form it are reflected in the diversity of its education system. The heterogeneity of the education system is reflected in different levels of the system, in the budget structure and in the existence of many types of educational institutions that are adapted to the needs of the different sectors…” (Weisblay & Vininger, 2015, p. 3).

In this regard, the system itself is divided according to 5 big sub-divisions, which create a significant inner diversity and adapt each school curriculum, infrastructure, etc. to the specific Division or Department to which it belongs. These are the main Divisions: Division according to the age of students : includes the Department of Pre-primary education, the Department of Primary Education and the Department of Secondary Education; Division of schools according to legal status (different level of regulation and budget from the state): includes Official Schools, Recognize Non-Official schools and Exempt Schools and Institutions; Division according to the type of Supervision : the Department of  State Schools, the Department of State-Religious Schools and the Department of Orthodox Schools; Division according to the Social Sector: the Department of Jews Schools and the Department of Non-Jews schools; Division according to the type of education: the Department of Special Education Schools and the Department of Regular Education (Weisblay & Vininger, 2015).

Innovation and Creativity inside of the Educational System: Division of Research and Development, Experiments and Initiatives

In this context, it is important to mention the Division of Research and Development, Experiments and Initiatives, in the Ministry of Education. In the official webpage[1], it says that the mission of this Division includes:

- “Identifying future challenges and potential possibilities for development, according to the needs of the Educational System…”;
- “Implementing a unique research and development continuum through a system of development, validation and evaluation of models for pedagogical, educational and organizational innovation, from the planning stage to implementation in the educational field…”
- “Encouraging the proactive approach of innovative educational initiatives among educators in the field, headquarters, Ministry of Education and the third sector in Israel…”

In another words, it is a division in the Ministry of Education that lead and assure the development of innovative models, approaches and practices inside the System of Education. This reality, gives schools and educators in the field, the chance to create their own innovative model of education, adapting it to their needs, pedagogical perspective and educational vision.

Participation and integration of external organizations, mainly NGOs, in the educational process

Another structural characteristic of the Educational system, that creates a big diversity in the educational process and a very fertile ground for the development of creativity and innovation, is the participation and integration of external organization, mainly NGOs, in the educational process. The research done in this field around the world, show us that among third sector organizations, a number of unique characteristics can be found: they have a better understanding of the operation of local activities in terms of organizational and management; they tend to be less hierarchical and more flexible (DeStefano & Moore, 2010; Haugh & Kitson, 2007); they are seen as entrepreneurial, innovative and pro-active, and with a very important contribution to a process that bring positive change to the education system (Jung & Harrow, 2015; Yemini & Sagie, 2014); and they have a good relation of cost-benefit, which means that in a lower cost they create more results and benefits (DeStefano & Moore, 2010). Because of these characteristics, the state tend to sees these organizations as agents of change, who greatly contribute to the processes of identifying needs and offering innovative solutions to them (Haugh & Kitson, 2007). In the context of the education system, the interaction between the system and the non-profit organizations, provide an answer to the interests of different stakeholders such as local authority, the Ministry of Education, schools and third sector organizations, and therefore, represents a significant opportunity for the growth of collaborations, innovations and processes of change inside the system (Yemini & Sagie, 2014).

In recent years, third sector organizations assumed a central role in the education system (Almog-Bar & Zychlinski, 2012). In 2007, between 500 and 1,000 external organizations were active in the educational system, providing activities accounting for nearly 10% of the weekly schedule of the students (Shiffer, Berkovich, Bar-Yehuda, & Almog-Bareket, 2010). Weinhaber, Ben Nun, and Schiffman (2008) claim that an organization external to the public educational system operates in 89% of Israeli schools, indicating the high willingness of schools to cooperate with these organizations. In 2014, it was estimated by the Ministry of Education, that in different schools around the country, there were around 4000-6000 external programs integrated into schools activity (Avgar, 2014).

Meaningful learning reform

The movement of the Educational System towards the development of Diversity, Creativity in Innovation within the system, can be identified in the reform initiated by the Ministry itself, the reform of the “Meaningful Learning”.

On the beginning of 2014, the Ministry of Education announced the beginning of the “Meaningful Learning” reform and process. “Meaningful Learning” is defined by the Ministry as a “personal process of knowledge construction during which the learner raises questions, identify data sources, process information and creates new knowledge relevant to him in the context of the interaction” (Weisblay & Vininger, 2015, p. 61). According to the Ministry, the learning process in this reform, is based on 3 basic principles: “Relevance to the learner and the teacher; The involvement of the learner and the teacher; The value of it for the learner and the Society…”(Weisblay & Vininger, 2015, p. 61).

In this process of reform, a number of practical changes that were implemented in the system, can be identify. In the context of this chapter, it is important to focus on a number of them:

- The transition of schools to a model of self-management or autonomous management model, in which their level of responsibility and accountability is very high, together with the rise on their level of autonomy and freedom. For example, the school can decide how to use the budget received from the state according to their specific needs.
- A higher pedagogical flexibility for school in the use of their teaching hours . This means that the school and the principal can decide on different ways of using the teacher’s teaching hours. This flexibility is applied to a maximum of  25% of the total teaching hours of the school. 
- A higher flexibility in the process of teacher’s professional development . In this context, Schools have the opportunity to build an independent or adapted process of professional development for their teaching staff.
- The development of a variety of models and tools for the evaluation of students: The schools have the opportunity and the obligation of developing diverse models of student’s evaluation that will be use in addition to the regular model based on Tests and exams. For example, schools will develop models based on research papers, oral presentations, games, discussions, debates, role playing, etc.

Diversity, Creativity and Innovation in the Goals of the Educational system

The space and the importance of the development of creativity, innovation and initiatives can be seen also on the main goals and aims of the Ministry for the schools in the Education System.

In the official document called “The Strategic Program 2013-2016: Planning Guide for the Educational Institution” [2] (Ministry of Education, 2015), the Ministry of Education present a guide for the different schools and institutions within the system, in which all the basic goals and strategic objective are presented, and the guidelines for the educational activity of the institutions are set. In this document, we can find a variety of main goals for Schools that encourage and even require the development of Creativity and Innovation. For example, the Ministry set 3 general main goals for the Education Institutions, in which are included “the promotion of meaningful learning and the achievement of personal realization” that required an approach that is student centered, and therefore create a high grade of diversity, since students are naturally different.

Another examples can be found on the specific goals for the educational institutions in the System (Ministry of Education, 2015, p. 15-17), which also be interpreted as encouraging diversity, creativity and innovation [3] :

- “Design and implement diverse and innovative processes of teaching-learning…”
- “Implementation of diverse evaluation methods…”
- “Establish a diversity of frameworks that will enrich the students general knowledge in a variety of subjects”
- “To provide professional and differential response to students in all spectrums of behavioral and learning sequence, in a way that it strengthens and nurtures each abilities and skills”
- “Examine the vision for the school, in order to update and to adapt it to the pedagogical and organizational perceptions that support meaningful learning”
- “To strengthen the status of school staff as significant agents of change to promote meaningful learning”
- “Foster a school culture that encourages involvement, partnership and entrepreneurship of Parents, Teachers and students in the educational and social processes”
- “Create permanent frameworks for learning and experience processes in the emotional, social and ethical development”


Addi-Raccah, A. (2015). School principals’ role in the interplay between the superintendents and local education authorities: The case of Israel. Journal of Educational Administration, 53 (2), 287-306.

Almog-Bar, M., & Zychlinski, E. (2012). A façade of collaboration: Relationships between philanthropic foundations and the government in social policy-making in Israel. Public Management Review, 14(6), 795-814.

Avgar, A. (2014). External education programs in the education system. Jerusalem: The Knesset (Israel Parliament). Retrieved from: http://www.knesset.gov.il/mmm/data/pdf/m03436.pdf (Hebrew)

Dayan, R., & Magen Nagar, N. (2012). National ICT Program "Adjusting the Education System to the 21st Century": Indicators Assessing the Success of the Program. In I. Eshet-Alkalai, A. Caspi, S. Eden, N. Gary, I. Iair & I. Kalman (Eds.). Chase Conference Book for Researches on Learning Technologies 2012: The Learning Human in the Technological Era (pp. 88-96). Ra’anana: Open University

DeStefano, J., & Moore, A.S. (2010). The roles of non-state providers in ten complementary education programmes. Development in Practice, 20(4-5), 511-526.

Gibton, D. (2011). Post-2000 law-based educational governance in Israel: from equality to diversity?. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 39(4), 434-454.

Haugh, H., & Kitson, M. (2007). The Third Way and the third sector: New Labour’s economic policy and the social economy. Cambridge Journal of Economics, 31(6), 973–994.

Herkavi, A., & Mendel-Levi, N. (Eds.). (2014). Education for all - and to each one in Israel's education system. Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Retrieved from: http://education.academy.ac.il/Admin/Data/Publications/education-for-all-He.pdf (Hebrew)

Jung, T., & Harrow, J. (2015). New development: Philanthropy in networked governance—treading with care. Public Money & Management, 35(1), 47-52.

Ministry of Education. (2008). Implementation of inquiry based learning in the education system in Israel. Retrieved from: http://cms.education.gov.il/NR/rdonlyres/8C17EFF7-3DC9-4DC0-BD96-B74630598D38/146467/resource_1811190036.pdf (Hebrew)

Ministry of Education. (2012). Adapting the Educational System to the 21st Century. Retrieved from: http://cms.education.gov.il/NR/rdonlyres/79B5A8CF-F812-4A63-89BE-3BEFEB887EC5/142454/12.pdf (Hebrew)

Ministry of Education. (2015). The Strategic Program 2013-2016: Planning Guide for the Educational Institution. Retrieved from: http://meyda.education.gov.il/files/MinhalPedagogy/TochnitAstrategit2015.pdf (Hebrew)

Shiffer, V., Berkovich, I., Bar-Yehuda, S., Almog-Bareket, G. (2010). Third Sector Organizations Involvement in the Educational System. Van Leer Institution,  Mandel Leadership Institute (Hebrew).

Weinhaber, B.C., Ben Nun, R., Shiffman, E. (2008). Involvement of NGOs, Funds and Commercial Philanthropy in the Education System - Findinds’ Report. Kfar Saba: Beit Berl College. Retrieved from: http://www.beitberl.ac.il/centers/yazamoot/forum_yazamut01/documents/pdf/doch-maarechet_hinuch.pdf (Hebrew)

Weisblay, E., & Vininger, A. (2015). Israel's education system - selected issues in the field of action of the Parliament Committee on Education, Culture and Sports. Jerusalem: The Knesset (Israel Parliament). Retrieved from: http://www.knesset.gov.il/mmm/data/pdf/m03552.pdf (Hebrew)

Yemini, M., Addi-Raccah, A., & Katarivas, K. (2015). I have a dream School principals as entrepreneurs. Educational Management Administration & Leadership43(4), 526-540.

Yemini, M., & Sagie, N. (2015). School–Nongovernmental Organization Engagement as an Entrepreneurial Venture A Case Study of Sunlight’s Engagement With Israeli Schools. Educational Administration Quarterly,51(4), 543-571.


[2] Free translation from hebrew

[3] Free translation from hebrew