The Democratic School of Hadera was established in 1987 by a group of parents and young educators who sought to found a school that would give its pupils freedom of choice in learning and other activities while experiencing daily life in a democratic framework.
Today, twenty years after it was founded, the school belongs to the official Israeli State School System, functioning as a nonregional institution with about 400 pupils age 4-18.
The school accords its pupils an atmosphere of respect, freedom, and choice, in the company of adults with a defined role, the essence of which is to support the pupils, each on his or her own journey of personal growth.
The school also integrates children with moderate developmental disabilities and Down syndrome, children with difficulties or various learning disabilities, and children who were expelled from the regular educational system for all sorts of reasons.
On the organizational side, the school is modeled as a democratic state: laws are passed in the school “parliament,” whose members are the pupils, teachers, and parents. The different committees—on which pupils, teachers, and parents also serve as members—are responsible for managing daily life, while the disciplinary committee, also run by pupils, teachers, and students, functions as the school’s judicial branch.
The school’s pedagogical outlook is drawn from esteemed philosophers and educators such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Martin Buber, Carl Rogers, and Janush Korczak. Underlying the implementation of democracy at the school is the belief that the school does not confer freedom upon its pupils, but rather, it does not deny them the natural freedom with which each of us is born. Thus, freedom is not an acquisition and nothing is required to attain it other than obeying school rules and behaving respectfully towards others.
We believe that, in order to sustain a real and well-rooted democratic society, we must allow our children to grow up in an environment in which they can internalize the values of democracy in practice and not just in theory. In the Democratic School, every pupil has the opportunity to create his or her own personal world, in partnership with others, while taking responsibility for maintaining a law-abiding society where human rights are respected. It is freedom of choice that allows the children to experience a deep sense of autonomy, sovereignty, and self-worth. We ask that children not be denied the opportunity to believe in their ability to shape their lives and to shape the personal and social reality in which they live.
Over the years, the school has assumed a leading role in an educational movement in Israel and abroad. In 1993, Hadera hosted the 1st International Conference on Democratic Education, which has taken place every year since, in a different country, and is known as The Hadera Conference. Many democratic schools have been established all over Israel in its footsteps, and today many state schools and regional school systems are undergoing democratization under the influence of the educational model shaped by the Hadera school.
A token of appreciation for the school’s activities can be seen in the various prizes it has received over the years, including the Education Prize (1994) and the title of Defender of Quality Government (1996) from the Israeli Movement for Quality Government.