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Israel’s educational tradition drives economic growth

Ever since ancient times, Israeli culture has valued education as a primary pillar in the establishment of the nation. The Babylonian Talmud, compiled in the 4th century CE states, “The very world rests on the breath of a child in the schoolhouse” (Shabbat Tractate, 119b), exemplifying the importance of study and education to the Jewish people thousands of years ago already. Even during the centuries spent in the diaspora, Jewish people excelled and distinguished themselves in education and academia despite frequent hardships and limitations placed on them due to antisemitism and discrimination.

Maintaining this tradition, modern day Israel has a comprehensive and robust educational system, ranging from primary schools to leading higher education institutions that offer undergraduate, graduate and post graduate students multidisciplinary study programs and often supply the world with breakthrough research in science, medicine and technology. Israel’s educational system is considered innovative in and of itself, as can be seen in a recent OECD “Innovation in Education” study that ranked Israel 8th overall in this category in the OECD between 2000-2011.

Israeli universities rank among the top 100 universities in the world in science and engineering subjects such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, computer science, engineering and life sciences. Israel ranks 2nd in the OECD nations for the percentage of 25-64 year-olds that have higher education diplomas (undergraduate and above), standing at approximately 45% and is a global leader in the number of scientific articles published per capita. Israel also boasts the largest concentration of engineers in the world with 140 scientists and technicians and 135 engineers per 10,000 employees. In comparison, the U.S.A. has a ratio of 85 engineers per 10,000 employees while Japan’s ratio shows 83 engineers per 10,000 employees.

Furthermore, it is intriguing to note the disproportionate percentage of Noble prize laureates who are of Jewish descent in comparison to the percentage of the Jewish people in the world’s population. Jewish people make up approximately 0.2% of the world’s total population, however one in every five Noble prize laureates is of Jewish descent (20%). Whether laureates were awarded their prize before the state of Israel came into existence in 1948 or after, these figures still point to the importance of education in innovation and it’s clear that the Jewish people as a whole have a much larger innovative footprint than should be expected of them based on their percentage of world population. Equally interesting is the breakdown of each of the six Noble prize categories: Jewish laureates in the categories of Economics, Medicine, Physics, Chemistry, Literature and Peace make up 41%, 28%, 26%, 19%, 13% and 9% of all laureates respectively.

Albert Einstein, winner of Nobel Prize in Physics, 1921
Albert Einstein, winner of Nobel Prize in Physics, 1921

Higher education is known to play a pivotal role in the economic and social development of a country, thus Israel’s educational tradition has greatly contributed to its economic advancement. Given the strong tradition of education that Israel holds, along with the educational innovation and ingenuity that are part of the system, it is not surprising that Israel spends a higher percentage of its GDP on research and development than any other nation in the world and has one of the highest rates in the world for patents filed. The end result is a robust, highly educated and innovative Israeli workforce that fills the ranks of both local and international companies that are on the cutting edge to develop breakthrough technologies in a wide spectrum of industries.

There is no doubt that Israel’s education has been a considerable factor in the success of the nation’s economy and has allowed it to grow from a desert swampland to a leading and fully developed nation with a booming and resilient economy. As Israel continues to invest resources into its education it will reap the benefits for many years to comes, as will the rest of the world.

Sources:  State of Israel – MFA, State of Israel – MOF (investinisrael.org), OECD.org, Wikipedia, Jerusalem Post

This article originally appeared on Wise Money Israel, May 3, 2017, and reposted with permission.

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Stefan Silver
Being passionate about both business and ministry work, Stefan is a Director at Wise Money Israel, the first Jewish believer-run Investment Portfolio Management firm in Israel, and also serves as the Executive Pastor at Kerem-El Congregation in Haifa.

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