The Israel Sci-Tech Aviation and Space High School and College Prepares Students for the Future
How many schools do you know of that have their own portable planetarium and a telescope? How many schools actually prepare students to come up with a science project that both completes an important function and has immediate commercial value? How many schools can say that the majority of their students would be classified as the U.S. equivalent of advanced placement students? How many schools have a flexible curriculum that fits the ephemeral needs of society? How many students will commute halfway across the country to attend high school daily? And finally, how many high schools offer thirteenth and fourteenth grades where students delve exclusively into their majors?
In November 2010, the American Israel Friendship League organized a dynamic group of U.S. school superintendents to look at successful schools in Israel. The first institution that the delegation visited was the Israel Sci-Tech Aviation and Space High School and College in Ma’ale Adumim, one of Israel’s leading magnet schools for science and technology.
The Israel Sci-Tech Aviation and Space in Ma’ale Adumim belongs to the largest charter school network in Israel – Israel Sci-Tech Schools Network with 186 schools and colleges across Israel. One of every 10 Israeli high school students studies in this high quality network. More than 60 percent of the students in the network’s schools study in science and technology tracks.
The faculty and curriculum at the Israel Sci-Tech Aviation and Space prepare students for careers in electronics, scientific engineering, computers, and biotechnology. Working with Israel’s air force and high tech sectors, the Israel Sci-Tech Aviation and Space High School attracts Israel’s brightest technical students — all students must pass an entrance exam. But although the academic climate at the Israel Sci-Tech school is serious and competitive, the administration and teachers give each cadet (each student is considered a cadet in the air force upon enrolling, and when joining the air force as part of the compulsory military service, many become officers) the personal attention and support needed for her or him to feel empowered, to be a part of the school and air force communities. Not only are academics taught, but human values such as honesty, team work, and “pride in a job well done” are stressed. In order to graduate, each year students must volunteer their time at nursing homes, as mentors to younger children, and as tutors.
The level of study is sufficiently advanced that when the Aviation and Space students go on to the university, they frequently bypass their first year and enter as sophomores. Besides technical classes, the curriculum includes areas of critical thinking in literature, Bible study, physical education, and social sciences. There are six areas of concentration for students: scientific engineering, biomedicine and biotechnology, electronics, social and theoretical science (a combination of psychology and sociology), electronic and control systems, and challenge (which is for underperforming students).
The student success rate has been phenomenal. The first graduating class, in 2007, 35 out of 50 students “passed” the matriculation exam, or bagrut, which is an extremely challenging exam on mandatory subjects such as Hebrew literature, grammar and composition, English language, civics, mathematics, history, literature, the Torah and an elective. In 2007, 74.4 percent of Israeli 12th graders took the exam, and only 46.3 percent were eligible for the bagrut certificate. In the 2010 graduating class, over 100 Aviation and Space students graduated, with a bagrut certification passing rate hovering around 90 percent.
In Israel, education is mandated and paid for by the national government. The cost to parents is very similar to a typical public school, which is about $150 per year, although there are several specialty teachers in the sciences and math. Also many of the teachers at Israel Sci-Tech Aviation and Space are university professors. Students could also take additional university-level courses.
A typical day at the school begins with a roll call. Students line up, as they would do in the military, for inspection. At the roll call, there is also a time for reflection, where the staff shares a thought for the day or a quote from the Bible. At the end of the day, there is another assembly. After school, there are a number of sports (not casual sports, but as activities that soldiers would perform in the army, such as running, weaving and dodging through an obstacle course) and a variety of social activities.
On an academic level, students work on projects that fulfill a need either on a military or commercial level. In fact, innovation is part of the project. Students also must work on the business side of the project, including analyzing the product vis-à-vis an existing need as well as generating a business plan for the manufacture of the product. Several of the student projects included a robot that fights fires, a model of a vehicle that can travel easily on sand, and an iPhone application that controls household appliances remotely. #