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MBHS International students. (Credit: Liran Keinan)
MBHS International students. (Credit: Liran Keinan)

Mae Boyar High School’s international program produces exceptional students

”The world is becoming more global. Studying here with other international students can help all of us prepare for that,” says student Antonio Maroun.

There is a certain kind of teen who is well-suited to international boarding school. Not just the brainiacs, though deep intellect is certainly a common characteristic of the applicants to Mae Boyar High School, one of the most distinguished high schools in Israel. Highly motivated students with an independent nature, those with innate curiosity, kids who don’t fit the mold, who are passionate about ideas, social issues, science, music, technology, and Israel are seeking admission to this unique school on a charming campus in Jerusalem’s Bayit Vegan neighborhood.

“Statistically speaking, IB graduates are more likely than their non-IB peers to graduate high school on time, attend selective colleges and universities, succeed in those universities, and feel prepared for the challenges of a changing world,” said Shachar Yanai, founding director of the international program at Mae Boyar High School.

Shachar Yanai, Founding Director, International Program.

Yanai says that prospective students must be highly motivated, proficient in English, and seeking an academic and personal challenge. Classes in the diploma program are entirely in English while co-curricular activities take place in both Hebrew and English; the 10th grade dual language program is taught half in Hebrew and half in English. The bilingual atmosphere supports the multicultural, international-minded vision of the program and allows students to learn and socialize cross-culturally.

The MBHS International program is an educational initiative developed by the Society for Advancement of Education (SAE), which uses education to empower youth in Israel to attain distinction in their social, educational, and leadership endeavors. The SAE, founded in 1962, initiates, develops and operates educational solutions for youth in schools, boarding schools, and educational programs with the goal of shaping and creating opportunities for excellence and for helping youth realize their full educational and ethical potential.

“If you come to study here, you are going to become more yourself,” said Isaac Park, a student in the preparatory program for MBHS International. “There is no ‘type’ or any pressure to conform.”

Without paying lip service to diversity and inclusion, the Mae Boyar High School is a model of egalitarian values and it is the students themselves who eloquently explain why their multicultural campus is such a success.

“We don’t single people out for their differences here, we celebrate them,” said one 10th grader, who didn’t need a buzzword like “neurodiversity” to express that individual ways of thinking and learning are as important to their class makeup as religious, ethnic, and gender differences. “You bring your whole self to school here. Everyone wants to know who each other genuinely is, without the labels.”

This appreciation for authenticity was evident in a psychology seminar attended by 20 students on a Monday evening. Having just read a text about the mythology of Narcissus, the students engaged in a discussion of self-love, self-esteem, and self-respect in the age of social media. Two faculty members co-leading the seminar challenged the students to consider the healthy boundaries of self-love, and why Freud used the story of Narcissus to define a character disorder.

Students on a tutorial tour in Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem. (MBHS)

The seminar, conducted entirely in English, was deep and fascinating because the students themselves, assembled in a large circle of chairs, brought so much to the discussion.

“It wasn’t really narcissism in the case of Narcissus,” a tenth grade girl noted. “In fact, he wasn’t obsessed with himself, it was only an image he was in love with. He didn’t even recognize that image was himself. So, it is strange that Freud characterized that as obsessive self-love.”

Boys and girls were freely contributing their thoughts on the subject, occasionally referring to the text they had all just read and often making connections to their own experiences.

“I’m thinking about body positivity,” said another girl. “We are encouraged to accept every image, but is that right? To be too thin or obese is not healthy, so should we embrace body positivity? Is that form of self-love actually potentially destructive?”

“It’s nearly 6:30,” one of the teachers announced, signaling to all that the seminar was concluding.

Nitzan Israeli and Isaac Park studying chemistry. (Credit: Liran Keinan)

Three more students wished to speak, though, and no one made any move to cap a pen or reach for a backpack while the conversation continued.

One of the teachers complimented the students on their excellent contributions and promised that next week the group would continue its discussion of self-love and broaden that to compare it with love for others and for other things, such as love for music. “You’ll each have a project about this topic for the semester,” she said. “We’ll discuss it next week and you’ll begin to work on it after Pesach.”

Though it was quarter to seven in the evening and the sun had set over Jerusalem, there was no palpable fatigue in the air as the seminar room emptied and students headed in pairs and trios for their dorm or a bus or the light rail.

“You realize this was extracurricular,” one of the faculty members pointed out to a somewhat shocked prospective parent who had visited that evening. “The students request these additional programs,” she said.

Antonio Maroun, a student who was raised in a small village in the north of Israel and now lives in Jerusalem, was drawn to Mae Boyar for its international program. “The world is becoming more global. Studying here with other international students can help all of us prepare for that.”

Sports activity in the Boyar campus. (Credit: Liran Keinan)

He said there is no pressure to declare one’s intentions about military service, national service, a career goal or even a potential college major. Antonio was quick to say that preparing for 11th grade is more than enough. “My objective right now is just to get good grades.”

Mae Boyar High School’s Shachar Yanai agrees that grades are important but he said: “An open-minded student who cares about local and global issues and wants to cultivate their independence, emotional resilience, and leadership tools will do very well here.”

Isaac Park, a South Korean national who grew up in the US and Israel said: “Mae Boyar and the International Baccalaureate is perfect for me. We have classes of just 15-20 people and I appreciate being able to study in English. And this is a very unusual school. Not only are there all kinds of kids from all over the world, Jerusalem is a special place to study because there is such deep history here and that tells us a lot.”

Student Isaac Park in Mahane Yehuda. (Credit: Liran Keinan)

Officially, the school says that through both formal and informal learning, students will engage in questions of identity, history, culture and the similarities and differences they discover between themselves and others both inside the school community and in the wider Israeli society.

“Israel is a Jewish country,” one tenth grader said. “And Jerusalem is where Judaism began. Coming here is so important to Jewish students. It presents kids with such an incredible opportunity to connect and discover what this means to each of us personally.”

“Ultimately, the program here is about learning to express yourself,” said the eloquent Isaac Park. “Through classroom discussions, in writing, through music and art. The IB is a good platform for kids to express themselves, not to become anyone or everyone else.”

A student at the Boyar library (Credit: Liran Keinan)

“I think this program connects people with each other,” added his friend Antonio. “If someone has the opportunity to study here it is a privilege that will really benefit them.”

The primary advantage of boarding school, says Yanai, is the learning-conducive atmosphere and the opportunity to cultivate independence and emotional resilience. Living away from home promotes personal growth and social maturity. This is more than evident in these deeply engaged students who attended the extracurricular seminar on self-love.

“If you are thinking of coming here, the kids will welcome you and we have our arms open to you,” says Isaac. “It’s no small thing to find a high school program that is focused both on nurturing academic motivation and excellence, together with cultivating emotional intelligence and social growth. MBHS inspires you to be the best version of yourself.”

Families can learn more about the MBHS International program by visiting the program website, our Facebook, or by contacting Kate Nachman from MBHS directly by phone or WhatsApp at +972 (52) 603 9154 or by email at kate.na@kidum-edu.org.il.

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