The Evangelical Lutheran School in Beit Sahour (ELS) is one of five Lutheran schools located in the major cities of the West Bank and Jerusalem. All of the schools, sponsored in part by partner churches and organizations, are run by Palestinian personnel. The ELS was established as a coeducational school in 1901 and in 1997 grew to be an all-encompassing primary and secondary school. The school renders its services to the community regardless of religious affiliation and social status. The good reputation of the school is constantly attracting more and more parents to enroll their children here,
where they can be sure their children will receive a good education. The average number of students has grown from around 450 in earlier years to 520 this year.
The continuously deteriorating economical situation in Palestine has its effects on the school. Since many Palestinians are prevented access to work in Israel, the rate of unemployment rose enormously over the past few years. Accordingly, more and more students are unable to pay their school fees. This causes the school's administration serious problems collecting tuition fees, which average an annual 500 US dollars per student. This covers just over 30% of the actual costs. Furthermore, parents with two children at the school get a discount, while a third child is entitled to a 10% discount and a fourth child could completely be exempted from any fees. To get out of this predicament, we have special scholarship programs to serve the social and needy cases. Thanks be to God, the school is able to get support from generous individuals and institutions both locally and internationally for this scholarship program.
The school curriculum includes the following subjects: Arabic, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Religion, Arts, Sports and Music. English is already introduced in 1st grade as the first foreign language and German is offered as the second foreign language, starting with the 5th graders.
The educational philosophy of the Lutheran schools is based on preparing students for the realities of life. Accordingly, special emphasis is given to extracurricular activities directly related to both the students' and the community's needs and future. Vocational training is highly encouraged. In the hope that tourism to the Bethlehem area will soon pick up again, the students are taught how to manufacture traditional, local craftwork including woodcarvings, decorative candles, and ceramics. The Lutheran School also encourages the preservation of traditional music and dance, known as "Dabkeh". The school's choir and dance group perform both locally and abroad.