An Israeli academy, co-funded by the Israel government and Jewish Agency, has opened its doors to British students looking to complete their secondary education in Israel.
High-achieving British students are now being recruited for the Naale Elite Academy, which has four separate streams, and will take the Israeli matriculation exams (bagrut) after completing their GCSEs in the UK.
Seven British students are currently at Naale, one of Israel’s largest diaspora projects.
Manchester-born Nechama Chazan, 16, joined the academy in September after completing her GCSEs at the OYY Lubavitch Girls’ School in Salford.
“The bagrut exams are at a really high level,” she said. “I took the higher level GCSE exam in maths — but this is a much higher standard.”
Nechama has joined the programme’s Beit Chana branch in Safed and is considering becoming a teacher. “I really enjoy the study and programmes here,” she added.
International students are initially taught in English, before the programme moves towards teaching compulsory subjects (Hebrew, English, maths, history and scripture) in Hebrew.
The British Council confirmed that bagrut exams are recognised for British university applications. A spokesperson said: “Each university sets its own entry requirements. You are not required to have A-levels (the English school leaving exams) as bagrut is recognised. You normally need full bagrut to be accepted onto an undergraduate degree.”
The spokesperson also advised students “to contact the international offices of the universities you want to apply to and ask whether your bagrut results meet the entry requirements of the course you wish to study, before sending your UCAS form.”
Former JFS student Roi Geller, 16, joined the academy because “I wanted the opportunity to live in Israel.” Roi, who was born in Israel but lived in London from the age of four to 15, said: “I never really felt English so I was really excited about the chance to live in Israel”. After he completed academic and psychological tests, Roi enrolled in the school’s co-educational Mosenson Youth Village in Hod Hasharon.
Ofer Dahan, a director at the academy, said: “The idea isn’t to get people to make aliyah – but to build a strong connection to other Jewish people and to Israel.
“The diaspora has always spent so much money on Israel – now Israel is spending money on the diaspora.”
Funding each student costs £30,000 for the three-year period but all student expenses are completely covered. The programme is able to accommodate 470 people each year and 13,500 students have graduated from the academy since its inception in 1992.
“It’s true, many people do decide to stay” Mr Dahan said. “But even those who decide to go back home are well-connected and are the best ambassadors for Israel around the world.”
The programme, which originally focused on high-achieving students from the US, France and Russia, has received increasing attention from people in the UK. “It’s a relatively new programme for British students – before we did not think there was a big enough market for it .
Now, slowly but surely, the British are now coming to us,” added Mr Dahan.