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Learning Together: Chapter IV - Residential Education/Boarding School Programs

In the United States, boarding schools have traditionally either been for the wealthy, for orphans or for troubled youth. Reports of poor conditions in many of these institutions have provoked a movement toward increased reliance on foster care. In most areas, however, foster care systems are strained beyond their capacity. In fact, the government's family preservation plan will spend more than $1 billion to keep children out of foster care. Residential programs are one possible response to this crisis, particularly those following the community and family-oriented models used in Israel.

Residential education has a long history in Israel, going back a century or so. During the pre-state years, Youth Aliyah was the major organization for providing services to large numbers of displaced children. It was started in 1933 to rescue Jewish youth from Nazi Germany. Teenagers were brought to what was then Palestine and educated in boarding schools. Services were provided for three populations: immigrants, children from second generation immigrant families who had not been successfully integrated and alienated youth who had committed social offenses.

With the founding of the State of Israel, residential education continued and thrived, even as the needs changed. Some centers stressed their educational functions while others emphasized their care and rehabilitative functions. Some continued to provide mainly for alienated and troubled youth while others undertook nurturing responsibilities for economically and socially disadvantaged youth. Some provided residential facilities for students who attended regular community or special schools. Today, Youth Aliya residential educational institutions, with an enrollment of some 18,000 pupils, offer a proven method for the absorption and acculturation of immigrants and a successful program for educating disadvantaged youth.

Residential centers that serve primarily alienated or troubled youth include:

Yemin Orde-Wingate Children's Village educates children, many orphans, from 14 countries, but mainly from the most destitute communities of the former Soviet Union, Brazil, Muslim countries and Israel. More than half the students are from Ethiopia. A complete high school program is provided, with accommodation made for whatever schooling students have had. Courses are taught in nine languages. Two tracks are offered, one college preparatory, the other vocational training. The village is run like a community rather than an educational institution. The children are responsible for the upkeep of the homes and their environs. They each work in the kitchen, mowing lawns, etc. Approximately one-third of every 100 children qualify for college, another third have a vocation and the rest develop the ability to cope in society and leave with partial educational certificates. One of the unique aspects of Yemin Orde is that it is always open to the students, year round, and after they graduate. Some kids have come back after their army service to live in the village. They serve as examples to the others that they will not be abandoned.

B'nai B'rith Women's Residential Treatment Center offers residential care and psychotherapeutic treatment to severely emotionally disturbed boys, ages 8 to 18. Its mission is to restore the emotional health of children and adolescents and help them readjust and reintegrate into normal community life. The RTC has a remarkable 65 percent recovery rate and has become a training ground for students of social work, special education and clinical psychology. The program is based on a long-term (approximately five years) stay in a protected, residential setting.

ELEM Community Hostel (Tiberias) provides a treatment approach to troubled, alienated youth in a group setting with close linkages to the surrounding community of Tiberias.

Kiryat Yearim is a two-year educational and social rehabilitation program for academically low-achieving junior high school youth. Its curriculum is based primarily on Feuerstein's principles of "cognitive modifiability" and "mediated learning."

Hadassim provides experiences for marginal youth through its on-site schools, which also serve as the high school for the surrounding community. Hadassim focuses on the development of a healthy identity and the restorative affects of communal values.

Armored Corps Army Base (Ashkelon) offers a program for marginal and troubled high school youth and young adults, preparing them both for army services and eventual re-entry into mainstream civilian life.

Boyar High School is an elite residential school located in Jerusalem that serves very able but disadvantaged junior and senior high school youth. Students from development towns who reside at Boyar are joined by gifted day students from Jerusalem.

ASHALIM is a community-based residential institution for children who suffer from severe psychological, behavioral, emotional and learning problems caused by an abusive family environment. Part of the Joint Distribution Committee's innovative approach is to integrate care institutions into community life and to involve families in the treatment of their children.


MANOF: An Educational Residential
Program for Alienated Adolescents


Yaacov Ohayon
Director, MANOF
Yad Natan
D.N. Oshrat 25200, Israel


MANOF is an educational residential program that offers teenagers — school dropouts, many in trouble with the law — a second chance to make something of their lives through a demanding, highly structured educational and rehabilitative experience.

Target Population:

Teenage school dropouts who may also be in trouble with the law.

Program and Activities:

MANOF started in 1975 as an experimental project for the sons of immigrant families whose absorption in Israel was extremely difficult. In 1992, 106 students participated in the program: 40 boys and 30 girls in the regular program; 10 in MAOF, the academic track and 25 "graduates" who stayed on for a second year.

MANOF operates year-round at the Yad Natan campus, north of Acre. The program is an option offered to 15½ to 16-year old adolescents by probation officers, social workers, the Youth in Distress Program or through family and friends who are graduates of the program. Each participant comes to MANOF voluntarily, usually full of aggression with a "show me" attitude. Gradually, however, the majority learn they can get tremendous help from the caring, involved and highly professional staff if they are willing to make the effort.

The underlying principle that MANOF teaches the participants is that if they want to make something of themselves, they must do it themselves, that their lives are in their own hands. More specifically, the educational-rehabilitative program aims at:

— Making real the idea that human beings can influence the course of their lives, while there is a reality that must be accepted;

— Facilitating a sense of equality in the group as a whole, and among the individuals forming integral parts of it;

— Allowing pupils to build an individual social, emotional and educational base that would afford them social and professional choices in the future.

The first year's program consists of both vocational and academic tracks. Reading, writing, mathematics, history and civics are required. On the basis of aptitude assessment and individual preference, skills and prior schooling, each student is assigned to a vocational program. Training programs are available for boys in metalwork, printing, automotive electricity and sports; for girls, programs are available in computer graphics, technical drawing, electronic wiring and secretarial and modern office procedures. Agricultural experiences and recreational activities are also provided.

Students who exhibit exceptional academic abilities can be selected for an intensive program called MAOF that prepares them for taking the Haifa University entrance examinations. At the end of the year, most participants receive Ministry of Education certificates attesting to their completion of nine years of schooling as well as their vocational studies.

Until about 1990, MANOF's second phase provided an experience of a year or a year-and-a-half on a kibbutz, where the participants were exposed to a wider, but still sheltered society in which they learned their lives truly changed and they were developing greater self-awareness and a more positive attitude toward themselves and their social milieu. While at the kibbutz, the students maintained contacts with their MANOF counselors and returned to Yad Natan once or twice a week to continue their studies. Those in MAOF continued their university preparatory courses.

Because of a serious economic crisis and an influx of new Russian immigrants, it became increasingly difficult to find even two kibbutzim that would each host about 20 students annually. Consequently, a decision was made to restructure the basic MANOF program into a two-year operation in which the first year remained unchanged and a second year provided a greater emphasis on individualized programming, working and pursuing academic and vocational courses.

Phase three is induction into the Army. Since failure to serve can stigmatize a young man throughout his life, eight of nine MANOF students are accepted in the Israel Defense Forces, many in elite combat units. A great many MANOF girls also serve in the Army, while others remain on campus, enter advanced study programs or go directly into the job market. During the third phase, MANOF counselors keep in touch with each graduate, monitoring each individual's progress and providing advice. MANOF/MAOF graduates never really leave the program since the relationships they establish carry through the rest of their lives.


ORT Boarding Schools


Chaim Ben-Ami
Director General, ORT Israel
39 Sderot David Hamelech
P.O. Box 16087
Tel Aviv 61160, Israel
Tel. (02) 520 3222, Fax. (02) 523 4827


The purpose of ORT boarding schools is to provide alternative housing for students who are enrolled in ORT facilities in Karmiel, Ashdod or Nethanya.

Target Population:

The housing is provided for new immigrants, students from distant parts of Israel, children from large, low income families.

Program and Activities:

ORT maintains three campuses where students may board. ORT Braude Karmiel serves primarily students from abroad, new immigrants or students who come from some distance and would have difficulty commuting. ORT Ashdod's boarders come from the central and southern parts of Israel and most are from low income, large families. ORT Lvovitch Nathanya serves boarders who meet two conditions: they must come from a difficult home and, more important, they must be above average in scholastic achievement.

ORT believes there has to be a very good reason for the student to leave the family and become a boarder. Counseling is provided the student and many activities are designed to strengthen family ties. As much as possible the family is involved in the education of their children and joint activities are planned throughout the year. Parents are sent a copy of their child's monthly program and students are encouraged to go home as often as possible although all must spend one Shabbat on campus to participate in special activities.

Those students who have difficulties with their studies are given summer coaching. Special help is given to the girls, who often have an especially difficult time at home because of their fathers' negative attitudes toward education for girls.

A study by the Henrietta Szold Institute of the Nathanya program found that, compared with students of the same level who did not leave home, the boarder students achieved 80 to 90 percent higher results on the bagrut examinations, more students who went to the army became officers, and 60 to 70 percent went on to higher education, a much higher rate than for non-boarding students.


Boarding Schools for Gifted
Students from Disadvantaged Areas


Professor Moshe Smilansky
School of Education
Tel Aviv University
P.O. Box 39040
Ramat-Aviv 69978, Israel
Tel. (03) 6408758, Fax. (03) 6409477


To foster and advance gifted adolescents from disadvantaged strata by identifying them at the end of elementary school and admitting them to centrally located boarding schools for their high school education where they can be provided with essential support and nurturance.

Target Population:

Above-average students 12-18 from low-income strata ages, who are considered "gifted" relative to their disadvantaged background and who show interest in college-bound secondary education and may benefit from a supportive environment outside their families. Preference is given to students from broken families, single-parent families or families with large numbers of children.

Program and Activities:

The Boarding Schools for Gifted Disadvantaged Students program was established in 1961 as an experimental program but, on the basis of its demonstrated success was soon adopted by the Ministry of Education and expanded. In 1993, 4,500 students were in boarding programs, including 1,000 immigrants from Russia and Ethiopia.

Gifted students are identified at the end of elementary school in urban and rural communities around the nation. Candidates are recommended by elementary school principals and are selected on the basis of their elementary school grades, their score on a special admission test battery (consisting of aptitude tests and achievement tests) and their socioeconomic level.

Students are admitted to centrally located boarding schools for their high school education, able to visit their families and communities on holidays, weekends and during summer vacation.

Participating students attend heterogeneous classes with middle-class students in regular high schools associated with the boarding schools. This arrangement provides the participating students with an opportunity to complete their secondary education in relative high-quality schools while interacting with peers from more advantaged social backgrounds. The heterogeneous class is intended to set high educational standards for both students and teachers and provide the disadvantaged adolescents with models of identification.

The boarding schools provide full residential life in the dormitories plus tutoring, extracurricular activities, enrichment programs, social activities and psychological support to disadvantaged youth who have to perform well in competitive high schools and meet the national standards of the bagrut matriculation examinations or other national high school certification requirements. Tutoring and guidance are provided by professional educators, group instructors, "house mothers" and university students.

A variety of informal courses are provided to help the children expand their cultural horizons. Courses are offered on a variety of subjects ranging from music appreciation, sculpture, drawing and drama to psychology, electronics, topography and ethnic folklore. Youngsters participate in the orchestra, music classes and the repertory group.

The students are divided into groups for social activities with each group meeting regularly to discuss various social matters such as contemporary problems of Israeli society, problems of adolescence, social ethics and recent Jewish history. To educate youth toward interdependence and a democratic way of life, students are encouraged to participate in student councils. They are also engaged in voluntary activities in their own communities as members of the fire brigade, elementary school children monitors, assistants for the care and rehabilitation of invalids and the aged and other community involvement. There is a strong commitment to peer group support.

The boarding program stresses cooperation with parents so that youth are not faced with the dilemma of deciding between their home culture and that of their new culture. They are left emotionally free to profit from the best of both worlds and to benefit from two supportive, rather than competitive systems. Continuous efforts are made to maintain regular contacts between students and their families. "Parents' Days" are held regularly when current information regarding the child's progress is shared with representatives and any general problems are discussed with them.

Parents are invited to various events and celebrations. When specific problems arise, the parents are invited for individual conferences. The social worker visits the parents' hopes and parents are encouraged to visit their children on their own initiative.

The impact of the program has been extensively studied over a period of more than 30 years. Compared with students with similar aptitude levels and socioeconomic backgrounds who are not in residential settings, the boarding school target population has significantly lower dropout rates, significantly higher academic achievement, a substantially higher rate of attendance at institutions of higher education and attain more higher status and leadership positions in science, medicine, industry and public life.

A less-expensive, less intensive, non-boarding experience is currently provided to more than 10,500 students who are enrolled in one-year preparatory programs attached to all universities and colleges. The program is supported by the Council for Higher Learning and supervised by the Association for the Advancement of Secondary Education.

The program is currently funded by the Ministry of Education and operated by a nonprofit organization, the Association for the Advancement of Secondary Education (94 Shderot Herzl, P.O. Box 3538, Jerusalem 91034, Israel).