Israeli High School Cyber Grads Don’t Get Promised Army Intel Spots

Haaretz has learned that the IDF does not give any preference to graduates of this course of study, despite information about these benefits appearing on the Education Ministry website

File photo: Israeli high school students in a computers class.
Tomer Appelbaum

The Education Ministry promises high school students in its cybersecurity program that they will get preference for assignments in army intelligence units and bonus points that enhance their chances for university admission, even though neither claim is true.

Information about these benefits appears on the Education Ministry website, which states, “Graduates of this major with high achievements will get preference for acceptance to positions in Israel Defense Forces intelligence units.” It also states, “Graduates of this major who do well on the matriculation exams will get a benefit coefficient (bonus) when they are accepted to institutions of higher education.”

Haaretz has learned that the IDF does not give any preference to graduates of this course of study. Moreover, the ministry’s Pedagogical Secretariat, the body with the authority to recommend academic bonuses, has never issued a recommendation to give a bonus to graduates of this major.

“When my students were summoned last year for their preliminary draft order, it emerged that no one at the recruiting base was familiar with this major,” says A., who teaches relevant courses at a high school in the center of the country. “Later, when students were invited to screenings for 8200 [an elite IDF intelligence unit] because they are also studying a foreign language, it turned out that the major wasn’t known there, either.”

The “Digital Detection and Location” major, as it is formally known, was introduced by the Education Ministry four years ago and operates in 18 high schools. Some of the ministry’s material refers to the major as “cyber informatics.” Pupils study 10 units — five units in “locating and analyzing information” and five in “information and knowledge on the internet.” In 11th grade the pupils take a matriculation exam in these subjects and in 12th grade they must submit a final project on a topic of their choice that is graded by external examiners. The courses are spread over three years with an average of 10 weekly study hours.

The course of study is overseen by the ministry’s Science and Technology Administration, which is responsible for other technology majors such as computer engineering, robotics and computer science.

Teachers in the program say the false claims are only part of the problem. A. says the curriculum is unfocused or insufficiently organized. “They tossed out a 40-page PDF file and said, go create a 10-unit course of study,” said A. “It’s a tremendous waste. We’re talking about a course of study with enormous potential but it’s being wasted by lack of investment.”

He adds that the curriculum is too diversified and puts too much pressure on the pupils. “The matriculation exam includes material from five different fields; they are expected to deal with texts and topic for reading comprehension, and on the other hand they also teach security technology and how a computer is built. To all this add the requirement to know a foreign language. The result is not effective.

“When you ask them, ‘What did you learn?” they don’t have a clear answer. The truth is that I, as a teacher, don’t have a clear answer, either,” he says. Add to this the false claims regarding the army and academic recognition, he says, “And they conclusion is that they pulled one over on us.”

The Education Ministry said the information on its website is indeed inaccurate and would be corrected. In a statement, it added the IDF alone is responsible for intake of conscripts. "As to the bonuses in acceptance to higher studies, this issue is determined by universities themselves according to their respective policy."