In demographic terms, Israel is a unique country: it is characterized by an unusual combination of high fertility rates, low mortality rates, and positive migration. All of these factors lead to a rapid rise in population.
Mortality rates have been decreasing over the past decade in every population group and in almost every age group (until age 89) – an indication of an overall improvement in the health of the population.
- Among Jews, the decline in mortality rates among men is greater than among women in every age group under age 55.
- Mortality rates among Arab Israelis – both for men and women – have decreased less than among the Jewish population in most age groups.
The number of births in Israel is very high relative to mortality rates and in comparison to other developed countries, and explains about 80% of the annual population growth.
- Trends from 2000 are expected to continue: a decline in fertility among Jewish women up to age 25, stability in the rate in women aged 25-29, and a marked increase in the rate among those aged 30-44 (with a slowdown in the rate of increase).
- In the 35 to 39-year-old age group, fertility rates are expected to rise as women’s age at first birth increases, pushing subsequent births to older ages. An increasing number of these women will be single parents.
- Among Arab Israelis, it is predicted that the decline in fertility rates observed since 2000 will continue, though at a slower pace.
- Relative stability is expected in the overall fertility rate of the Jewish population in the coming decade, followed by a slight decline – by 2030 the total fertility rate is expected to be below 3 children on average per woman.
- At the same time, a decline in overall fertility is expected in the Arab Israeli population – by 2040, the total fertility rate in Arab Israeli society is expected to be 2.75 children per woman, on average.
- Due to changes in the number of births over the last 20 years, the number of Arab Israeli women aged 20 in 2037 is likely to be the same as the number in 2017, while the number of Jewish women is likely to be much higher than their number in 2017.
The overall migration balance in Israel is positive and rising. Over the past few decades Israel has also become an attractive destination for labor migrants and asylum seekers.
- Between 2002 and 2017, 184,000 net people immigrated to Israel, the vast majority below the age of 40.
- Given the 20% rise in immigration in 2019, it is reasonable to assume that the flow of immigration will continue to be greater than the emigration rate.
Population age structure
Israel’s current population is relatively young, both in the Jewish and the Arab sector: In the Jewish sector there are 140,000 infants versus 60,000 70-year-olds, and in the Arab Israeli sector, 42,000 versus only 5,300, respectively. In both sectors, there are more men among younger people, and more women among older age groups. However, there are three essential differences in the population structure between Jewish and Arab Israelis.
- Putting aside the effects of migration, the Jewish population has grown slowly but consistently, while among Arab Israelis a significant decline in fertility since 2000 has made younger cohorts similar in size.
- In the Jewish population the age structure has predictable waves and dips every 30 years, while among Arab Israelis the structure has remained relatively stable.
- Among Jews, 8% of men and more than 10% of women were over the age of 70 in 2017. Among Arab Israeli men and women, the equivalent shares were 2.5% and almost 3.5%.
Projections for 2040
The Taub Center study makes the following forecasts of Israel’s population by 2040 using a range of realistic assumptions regarding future fertility, mortality and migration patterns.
- The country’s population is projected to reach between 12.4 and 12.8 million people in 2040.
- The proportion of the population that is Jewish/other is expected to fall to 78%, where it will stabilize.
- A substantial increase in the number of over 70-year-olds is expected – from 669,000 in 2017 to about 1.41 million in 2040, with a higher rate of aging in the Arab Israeli sector.
- In the Jewish sector, the number of births will grow at a decreasing rate during the 2020s because of the lower number of Jewish women in their early to mid-twenties (relative to those aged 30-34). By 2030, the number of births will increase sharply as a large number of women reach childbearing age. Though the fertility rate is declining in the Arab sector, large age groups have begun to enter peak fertility ages, which is likely to generate a notable rise in the number of births in the sector. Together, these two population dynamics will change the ratio of Jewish:Arab births, first reducing it, then increasing it to its current level.
- A large group of people will age into their 50s in the next two decades – a high point for individual productivity and income, and therefore tax income and consumption for the state.
- There is a large group of 5 to 19-year-olds who will be entering the labor market and institutions of higher education in the coming years, much larger than the group that entered these institutions in the last 15 years.
Given the above projections, appropriate measures should be taken to integrate large numbers into higher education and the labor market; preparations should be made for old-age pensions and long-term care services; and timing investment into the education system is imperative. Understanding future growth patterns for each segment of the population will help policy planning for growing populations in Israel.
This study examines educational achievement gaps by nationality and socioeconomic background. Findings indicate a continuous improvement – although the past few years have seen a slowdown – in student achievement for both Jews and Arabs, as well as a narrowing of the gaps between the national sectors, especially within similar socioeconomic groupings. Nevertheless, the gaps between strong and weak students remain great, and in an international comparison, Israel ranks low for student achievement and high for achievement gaps.
The education system attempts to allow parents and student a certain amount of choice between frameworks to meet their varied needs, while trying to maintain equality. In some instances, variety causes segregation and a widening of gaps.
- The gaps between attendance rates of 3–4-year-olds in Hebrew and Arab education have drastically declined over the past few decades: in the Arab education sector, attendance rates for 3-year-olds increased from 15% in 1982 to 72% in 2018 and for 4-year-olds from 30% in 1982 to 89% in 2018.
- In the upper income quintiles, private expenditure on preschool education is much higher than in the lower ones, indicating the emergence of stratification. This did not change substantially after the implementation of the Compulsory Education Law for ages 3-4 in 2013.
Primary and middle school education
- The share of those seeking private frameworks within the Hebrew system is low, while the share is more than 25% within the Arab system.
- There has been a rise in the number of Arab Israeli parents who choose to send their children to schools in the Hebrew education system.
- In middle school there is also grouping along educational criteria (which quite often coincide with socioeconomic background), creating differentiation along socioeconomic lines.
High school education
- There are almost no Ministry of Education restrictions on admissions requirements and parents’ payments in high school, leading to more parent freedom and creating differentiation reflected in the socioeconomic composition of schools’ student bodies.
- Within schools, differentiation is expressed for the most part in tracking into academic and technological education tracks.
Achievements and educational gaps
Scores have been improving and gaps narrowing since the start of international testing in the early 2000s and in the Meitzav exams since 2007. The trend is especially notable among Arab Israelis, although gaps remain large.
Primary school education
- Between 2008 and 2017, student scores in the 5th grade Meitzav exams rose by about 13% in mathematics and about 8% in English, with the greatest gains in the Arab education system – 22% and 13% respectively.
- Gaps between students in schools serving the most affluent population and those serving the weakest population have narrowed substantially – across the Hebrew and Arab education systems and within each system, in math and in English.
- On the PIRLS exam, Israel ranks relatively low – 29 out of 50 countries, and relatively high in terms of student gaps – 13. The main reason is the large gap between students in Hebrew versus Arab education.
Middle school education
- Achievement gaps on the 8th grade Meitzav exams are large between the Hebrew and Arab sectors in English, math, and science, although they have narrowed in all cases. Among those with similar socioeconomic backgrounds, gaps between the sectors are smaller and narrowing.
- The gaps have narrowed most substantially in the sciences: the average score rose by 110 points in Arab education and by 79 points in Hebrew education.
- On the TIMSS exams, scores increased at a faster rate than the average in other countries until 2011. This increase has since halted.
High school education
- Bagrut qualification rates still rose substantially between 1990 and 2015.
- For bagrut qualification that fulfills requirements for admission to higher education, student achievement gaps grew between students from different socioeconomic groupings among Jews, but did not change and even narrowed between Arab Israeli students.
- Israel’s students’ PISA exam scores are lower than the overall OECD country average and the gaps between the strongest and the weakest students are the greatest.
- Hebrew speaking students’ scores on the 2018 PISA exams were higher than the OECD average (506 versus 487), while the achievements of Arab speakers was much lower (362) and declined by almost 40 points between 2006 and 2018.
Since 2010, Israel’s education budget has grown faster than the number of teachers; the number of teachers has grown faster than the number of classes; and the number of classes has grown faster than the number of students. These developments have made it possible to increase per-class and per-student allocations, improve student achievements, and bridge gaps within the system.
The demographic composition
The past twenty years have witnessed demographic shifts in Israel’s education system, most strikingly in the Arab Israeli sector.
- Following a decline in the share of students enrolled in the Jewish (secular) state-education system, the share increased during the past decade from 37% to 40%.
- The state-religious education system maintained its share of students, despite high birthrates, while the Haredi sector’s rapid student-population growth rate decelerated.
- The Arab Israeli sector’s share in the primary education system dropped from 28% in 2010 to 24% in 2019 following a decline in Arab Israeli women’s fertility rates.
- An interesting process taking place in Arab Israeli society (still limited in scope) is Arab Israeli citizens sending their children to Jewish educational institutions, in Jewish or mixed localities: as of 2018, there are 24 Jewish schools in which over 10% of the student body is Arab Israeli.
The resources available to the education system
During the years 2015 to 2018, the Ministry of Education’s budget increased by 21%. An examination of the budget implementation indicates that few programs grew in 2018 more than the general budgetary increase.
- The program that showed the highest growth rate was the long school day program (229%), followed by computer, technology and science programs (64%), informal education and Jewish culture (45% each), and Ma’ayan HaTorah education (that serves the Haredi Sephardic population – Shas – 37%).
- Between 2014 and 2017, the per-student budget grew by 17% at the primary school level, by 24% at the middle school level, and by 30% at the high school level.
- The percent increase in the Arab education system budget was higher than in the Hebrew system, but the per-student budget in a school in the Hebrew education system remains substantially larger than the per-student budget for a school with the same Nurture Index in the Arab education system. Students in the state-religious system enjoy the largest budgets.
- Israel’s rate of increase in per-student expenditure since 2005 was higher than that of the OECD (25% versus 9%). Israel’s per-student expenditure is equal to, or even slightly greater than, that of the OECD in primary education, but still considerably lower at the secondary level.
The study examines teacher wages and quality, presents data indicating that, except for in specific localities or subject areas, there is no teacher shortage.
- The average monthly salary rose by 63% and the hourly wage by 34% (there was a hike in the number of teacher work hours).
- Compared with other academic degree holders, teachers’ wages are low (for example, preschool teacher wages stand at about 85% of the average wage for other degree holders).
- While the percentage of bachelor’s and master’s degree holders rose among teachers, the average teacher psychometric exam score remained low.
- In recent years there has been a rise in both number and share of teachers who are general college graduates and a decline in the number of university graduates, but there is no evidence that one type of teacher training institution has qualitative advantage over the other.
No shortage in teachers, and the shortages that do exist appear to be limited to specific subjects and places:
- Between 2010 and 2018, the number of teachers increased at twice the rate of the increase in the number of students, and by 50% more than the increase in the number of classes.
- The percentage of non-certified teachers dropped from 18% in 2009 to 6% in 2018, while the average education level rose.
- The average number of hours of employment has remained unchanged; the number of students per class dropped; and the number of teacher work hours per class climbed from 52.5 hours in 2006 to about 76 in 2019.
- The percentage of math and English teachers teaching “outside their subject areas” also dropped, though the percentage of Hebrew teachers teaching outside their subject areas actually rose.
Despite pervasive differences of opinion and ideological battles within Israeli society, there is one subject where there is complete agreement and that is the need to narrow educational gaps. Most agree that education is one of the keys to success in life, and that we should ensure equity in terms of educational opportunities for all children in Israel.
Many believe that narrowing educational inequalities can also contribute to narrowing economic inequality that is so prevalent. Nevertheless, educational disparities between socioeconomic groups, sectors, and ethnic groups abound. These gaps seem intransigent despite the efforts of government and the education system.
The Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel has published a new book Educational Inequality in Israel: From Research to Policy, which gathers the current knowledge on a variety of issues relating to educational inequality, and discusses education policy and steps that can be taken towards change. Leading educational authorities in Israel collaborated on this book including Professor Hanna Ayalon, Nachum Blass, Dr. Yariv Feniger, and Professor Yossi Shavit.
This book examines the issues of educational inequality in Israel. Children’s academic achievements are determined to a large extent by the economic and educational resources that their parents have available.
Click here for the complete book
Click here to read the Foreword by Avi Weiss
Click here to read the Introduction by Yuli Tamir: Shall the Crooked Be Made Straight? The Education Plateau and the Challenge of Inequality
Click here for Chapter 1: Challenges and Hopes on the Road to Equality of Educational Opportunity
Click here for abstracts of Chapters 2-12
Click here for Chapter 13: Conclusions and Policy Recommendations Attendance Rates and Gaps
There are tremendous inequalities among families in Israel in terms of these resources, and this contributes to a large extent to the differences in educational opportunities for the younger generation. These inequalities do not just stem from differences in family resources but also from the structure of the education system and its processes.
For example, separation of weaker and stronger students contributes to a strengthening of the inequality between these groups in terms of their achievements. Similarly, privatization of the education system is likely to increase the achievements of students from well-off families since they can afford the expenses of private education while students from poorer families often attend schools with fewer resources providing education of a lower quality.
This all contributes to a widening of educational gaps. This book documents educational inequality in Israel and discusses the possible contribution of education policy to the narrowing of these disparities among young people. It appears that despite the advantages that stronger social status groups hold, there is hope that focused education policy can narrow the disparities, even if they cannot be eliminated. Knowing the centrality of family resources in creating educational disparities should not weaken the drive of policy makers to work towards narrowing these gaps.
If anything, it should strengthen their resolve to develop directed policies to this end. The book’s chapters discuss a variety of ways that education policy can further educational opportunities among weaker social groups in Israel.
A policy of differential allocation of student resources should be implemented
There are differences in resource allocation between socioeconomic groups, and affirmative action policies enacted by the Ministry of Education have not, as yet, brought about substantial changes. It does, however, appear that gaps in resources – especially between the Hebrew and Arab education sectors – are narrowing.
Only about 10% of the Ministry of Education budget is set aside to advance weaker population groups. The Taub Center researchers suggest changing the budgeting system by implementing a differential basket of student resources from preschool through to high school, recognizing that this is a valuable tool for advancing equity in the education system.
Allocating in this way allows the services to be concentrated in the hands of the Ministry of Education and gives them the ability to change the current situation where municipalities with different resources and needs are required to contribute the same percentage of their resources to education funding.
Differential budgeting allows the Ministry to set a separate system of compensation and incentives for teachers in schools serving weaker population groups. It is based on the school’s Nurture Index, giving priority to those institutions that are socially integrated with students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
Investment in early childhood brings returns both to the individual and to society
The first years of life – early childhood – are a critical period in child development. The family’s socioeconomic background is likely to impact the supply of positive and negative stimuli in the young child’s experience with long-term developmental impact including on future academic achievements. Research shows that socioeconomic gaps in early childhood tend to intensify over the child’s lifetime.
Taub Center researchers explain that inequalities in academic achievement in Israel are linked to economic inequalities for families of young children. Interventions during this critical period, while the infant’s brain is still malleable, bring greater returns than later interventions, and are also likely to narrow academic achievement gaps among children from different socioeconomic groups.
The researchers suggest several steps, including increasing accessibility and improving the quality of early childcare in day care centers and family-run daycare and increasing participation in programs of this nature; keeping child to staff ratios low in early childhood frameworks; and investing in training high-quality staff for these facilities.
In addition, the researchers recommend increasing Income Support, increasing and differentially distributing Child Allowances, and raising the work grants for those parents of young children who are low wage earners. Early intervention brings returns to the child and to society in a plethora of areas.
Decreasing class sizes is not a “cure-all,” although it can help students from weaker populations
Classrooms in Israel are the most crowded of the OECD countries and Israeli student achievements are middling to low relative to their peers in other countries. Does class size explain the low level of achievements?
Those who favor smaller classes claim that they allow teachers to give more individual attention to students, make teacher’s work easier, and lessen teacher burn-out, among other benefits. However, decreasing the number of students per class is an expensive proposition, and it involves enlisting many more teachers who may be less well qualified.
In the Hebrew education system, students from wealthier socioeconomic groups tend to learn in relatively large classes, and those from weaker backgrounds are in smaller classes. Thus, decreasing class sizes in this sector is most likely to benefit the wealthier students. Despite this, there is evidence that small classes can bring about an improvement in academic achievements at the primary school level and in classes for students from weaker backgrounds.
It is important to also emphasize that decreasing class size must go hand in hand with modified pedagogical methods. Thus, it is advisable to do this in schools serving weaker populations (including in the Arab education sector), primarily in primary education, and this step should be accompanied by the development of new pedagogical tools and teacher training programs.
Privatization and parental choice within the education system increases inequalities
There are those who see parental choice, competition, and privatization of schools as an efficient means of improving the education system, however, current research does not bear this out. The majority of studies find no clear advantages to opening registration areas or to private or independent schools that benefit from public funding in comparison to regular public education.
Studies show that choice and privatization do not contribute to improving the overall system, and are, in fact, likely to increase the level of inequality in the system. Taub Center researchers stress that we should ensure that existing choice mechanisms do not harm the public system, and that they encourage pedagogical approaches with a proven potential to improve both teaching and learning of weaker students.
The book’s researchers recommend that in cases where there is parental choice of schools, the state and the local authority should ensure that schools do not charge entrance fees (since payments of this sort are a deterrent to those students with more limited resources) and that, in cases of excess demand, students are accepted on the basis of a lottery system rather than on the basis of tests or interviews. In addition, there should be transportation available to every child in the area to make the school of choice accessible regardless of parental ability to pay.
The price of student testing and the potential for developing measurement and evaluation tools
The Meitzav exams (the Hebrew acronym for School Growth and Efficiency Measures) are intended to provide the public and decision makers with information on academic achievements and gaps. As in other countries that have adopted such exams, though, it seems that their disadvantages outweigh their advantages.
Instead of the exams serving as a tool for developing policy and directing policy for narrowing educational gaps, many schools intensively prepare their students for the exams, and in some cases, there have even been reports of altering test results.
In light of this, the researchers recommend changing the Meitzav exams to tests based on a representative sample of schools that will give a picture of achievements and educational perspectives and will also enable testing over multiple years.
Data collection of this sort will lessen pressures on schools following the publication of results and will allow them to focus on real improvements. In addition, existing information sources – in the Ministry of Education, in the National Authority for Measurement and Evaluation in Education, and others – should be used to improve teaching methods in schools.
Heterogeneous student populations
The Israeli education system is divided into “four tribes,” as the President of Israel said: Hebrew State, State-religious, Haredi, and the Arab education system. Despite various attempts, it is hard to imagine much integration of these four tribes. Within each tribe, there is also considerable segregation between various groups.
Schools in the Israeli education system differ in the socioeconomic composition of their student bodies. These differences contribute to perpetuating intergenerational inequality because the composition of the student body has an impact on student achievements.
For this reason, researchers are of the opinion that integration within the schools between students from the different tribes and different socioeconomic backgrounds should be encouraged, for instance through economic incentives.
Improving teacher recruitment and training for those serving the periphery
In the past two decades, teacher’s colleges have raised their entrance requirements somewhat, but they still draw mostly students with weak academic performance.
In the past decade, there have been programs aimed at encouraging candidates with high academic skills to work with weaker populations, including monetary incentives and retraining. Nevertheless, there is still an issue of teacher attrition rates, as well as teachers with high seniority and advanced degrees tending to teach in schools serving stronger populations. One of the Ministry of Education’s programs mentors new teachers, although its efficacy has not yet been fully evaluated.
The Taub Center researchers believe that teachers from strong backgrounds should be encouraged to teach students with relatively weak backgrounds, and should be mentored during their first years of work to give them broad professional support.
Policies to narrow gaps in higher education
Opening up the higher education system has brought about a substantial rise in the share of those seeking higher degrees among Jews and Arab Israelis, and for both women and men, though female rates of higher education are higher in both sectors, and particularly among Arabs. Nevertheless, the rise did not narrow gaps a great deal between Jewish and Arab Israeli students.
About 70% of those Jews with a bagrut (matriculation) qualification continue on to higher education compared to about 50% of Arab Israelis. A look at Jews by ethnic origin shows that about 75% of Ashkenazim, about 65% from the former Soviet Union, about 61% of Mizrahiim, and only about 51% of Ethiopian descent continue onto academic studies.
Children whose parents have an academic education are far more likely to continue on to higher education than are children whose parents do not have an academic education (76% versus 61%, respectively). There are also differences in the choice of institutions of higher learning: Muslims and Druze tend to study in colleges, while Jews (primarily Ashkenazim and those from the former Soviet Union) and Christians tend to study in the university system.
The likelihood of Arab Israelis dropping out from their degree studies is twice that of Jews. With regard to completing a degree, those of Ethiopian descent have the lowest completion rates – less than half of them complete their studies within the defined period of time. In teacher colleges, only 60% complete their studies on time while about 18% drop out.
“The study’s findings show that high school gaps have repercussions that extend to higher education, and interventions should begin early in the education system, primarily among groups with weaker socioeconomic backgrounds and among Arab Israelis,” say the researchers.
They add, “Gaps in accessibility to higher education between Jews and Arab Israeli students are deep, and Arab Israelis need to be encouraged to obtain higher education and to develop their employment possibilities. In addition, preparatory courses for Arab Israeli candidates who meet entrance requirements for higher education should be increased.”
The negative implications of tracking students
Tracking students is done so that they can learn according to their abilities and interests. Tracking, though, increases inequalities since students from weaker backgrounds are often directed into tracks where their educational opportunities are limited.
Students are placed in different educational tracks in middle and high school. Following a substantial decline over the years in the extent of vocational-technological education, the Ministry of Education set a goal to once again increase attendance in those tracks.
The claims were that doing so would narrow gaps between the Center and the periphery and between wealthy and poorer population groups, would ultimately help the Israeli market place which has been hurt by a shortage of workers with vocational-technological skills, and would also strengthen the work ethic in education. Those against the Ministry move claim that vocational-technological education perpetuates inequalities, despite the changes that it has undergone, since the weakest students are directed to those vocations that give their graduates the fewest opportunities.
The researchers recommend working to limit tracking in middle school, for instance by having a more heterogeneous mix of students in classes, and encouraging even those students with difficulties to take academic track high school classes that lead to a bagrut qualification.
Gender gaps in education
A good deal of the discussion about gender gaps in education is concerned with girls’ inferior performance in mathematics and science, despite the fact that in all subjects and at all levels of study their achievements are no worse and even better than those of their male peers.
This is true in all population groups and particularly so in the Arab education system. Nevertheless, policy planners and education researchers show little interest in how boys are consistently outperformed in language skills.
Gender gaps in mathematics and sciences are seen in both high school and higher education, and are expressed in the low share of women who study physics and computer science. Gender gaps in these fields reflect on gender-based gaps in wages in the labor market, since studying engineering and computer science at the academic level increase the chances of attaining lucrative employment. Recent studies show that encouraging women to study technology related fields can help narrow the gender wage gap, and might even eliminate it.
Pedagogical interventions to narrow gaps in the classroom and school
Cooperative learning in small groups and individual tutoring for students with difficulties are two approaches that are found to be effective in advancing equity between students, and yet require little economic investment. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Education has yet to develop a clear framework for their efficient implementation in a manner that will target those students who need it the most.
Cooperative learning in small, heterogeneous groups can substitute for tracking students by academic level, and can thereby narrow inequalities inherent in tracking. This approach requires training and mentoring teachers, and organizational flexibility in teaching hours and study materials.
Its implementation requires a change in the mindset among school principals and those in the Ministry of Education. Researchers suggest that the hours of individual tutoring required by teachers should be focused on advancing low-performing students, and additional tutoring hours should be budgeted for those schools serving socioeconomically weak populations.
When researchers study inequalities in society and opportunities for social mobility, they often try to determine the sources of these inequalities. Not surprisingly, many look to inequalities in the education system and their lasting effect in adulthood, but new studies show that these gaps find their beginnings earlier in life.
The first years of life are critical in terms of brain development; as the academic literature shows, the brain reaches 85% of its final size by age 3, and 95% of its size by age 5. During this period, all the developmental processes are at their peak: cognitive, linguistic, emotional, social, perceptual, and more. It is a critical period, one in which exposure to a supportive, enriching, and stimulating environment is essential for optimal development.
A recent Taub Center study, published with the generous support of the Bernard van Leer Foundation, delves deeper into the influence of environmental factors on early childhood development and children’s future scholastic achievements. The study asks if there is a difference in Israel between infants and toddlers – conception to age 2 – and preschoolers – ages 3-5 – in the effect that poverty has on later academic achievements.
In general, the researchers discovered that certain family characteristics have an impact on students’ achievements across both age groups (birth to age 2 and 3-5). For example, as parents’ level of education rises so do their children’s scholastic achievements. In addition, number of siblings has a negative effect during early childhood – as the number of siblings rises, scholastic achievements drop.
When it comes to poverty, however, there are differences between the two age groups. Poverty during the first two years of a child’s life is strongly and negatively correlated with later academic achievements, while poverty that is experienced by the child at ages 3-5 does not have the same correlation. These findings hold true for all the subjects tested on the 5th grade Meitzav exams – mathematics, Hebrew, English (as a second language), and literacy in science and technology.
Furthermore, there are significant differences in Bagrut outcomes between students who experience poverty from birth to 2-years-old and those who experience poverty between ages 3 and 5; again, the negative correlation is greater for those who experience poverty during the very first years of life.
These findings are particularly poignant because child poverty in Israel, which stands at about 26%, is nearly the highest among the developed countries (with the exception of Turkey). It seems that such poverty, experienced from birth to two years, is likely to result in a kind of “scar” that remains over time and accompanies the child through adulthood.
To address poverty in early childhood the researchers suggest the possibility of shifting a portion of child allowances towards early childhood, and in this way, offering assistance to young parents.
In view of the high employment rates among mothers with small children, it is also important to increase the quality of educational frameworks for very young children, especially for children up to age two and especially for families who are in financial distress. Because of the critical importance of early childhood development and its many implications, the Taub Center plans to continue researching this topic in the coming years.
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The academic literature shows that the first years of life are critical in terms of brain development: until age 3, the brain reaches 85% of its final size, and until age 5, 95% of its size. In this period, all the developmental processes are at their height: cognitive, linguistic, emotional, social, perceptual, and more.
For this reason, there are those who claim that the first 1,000 days of life – from conception until age 2 – are the most critical in terms of development, a period where exposure to a supportive, enriching, and stimulating environment is essential for optimal development.
This study, generously supported by the Bernard van Leer Foundation, examines the impact of family income during early childhood on Israeli students’ future academic achievements on the 5th grade Meitzav exams, and distinguishes for the first time between infants – birth to 2-years-old – and preschoolers – ages 3-5.
Economic and scholastic inequalities in Israel
Economic inequality in Israel is among the highest in the OECD countries, and especially high among children – almost 30% of Israel’s children lived in poverty in 2017. More than half of all poor families are families with children. Israel also ranks among the lowest in student academic achievements among the OECD countries, with high levels of inequality in those achievements among Israeli students.
Family characteristics and scholastic achievements
Certain family characteristics have an impact on students’ achievements across both age groups (birth to age 2 and 3-5). There is a strong positive relationship between parents’ level of education and achievements – that is, as parents’ level of education rises so do their children’s scholastic achievements. Likewise, number of siblings has a negative effect during early childhood – as the number of siblings rises, scholastic achievements drop.
Poverty in early childhood and Meitzav exam performance
Poverty during the first two years of a child’s life appears to have an especially strong and negative effect on later academic achievements, while poverty that is experienced by the child at ages 3-5 does not have the same impact. These findings hold up across all the scholastic tests of the 5th grade Meitzav exams: math, Hebrew, English, and science.
Poverty in early childhood and attaining a Bagrut certificate
Controlling for previous achievements, poverty experienced during the first two years of life lowers the chances of students receiving a Bagrut certificate. Furthermore, there are significant differences in Bagrut outcomes between students who experience poverty from birth to 2-years-old and those who experience poverty between ages 3 and 5.
Given these findings, it is possible to suggest that poverty experienced from birth to two years is likely to create a kind of “scar” that remains over time and accompanies the child through adulthood.
The researchers suggest the possibility of shifting a portion of child allowances towards early childhood, and in this way, offering assistance to young parents. Likewise, in view of the high employment rates among mothers with small children, it is especially important to increase the number of quality, educational frameworks for very young children, especially up to age two.
The new school year is in full swing, which, for Israeli high-schoolers, means already starting to prepare for the matriculation exams (bagrut) they will take before graduating.
One of the main goals set by the Ministry of Education in recent years was to increase the share of high school students studying math and English at the highest (five-unit) level, as well as the rate of bagrut qualification at this advanced level.
These subjects have become a central focus of the Ministry because they are important for many fields of study in higher education. In addition, studying advanced math and English builds important skills for integration into the labor market and is even associated with higher earning capacity in the future.
After several years of decline, the number of students taking five-units in math and English has improved greatly in the past five years, in both Hebrew and Arab education. There has been a 40% increase in the number of students taking the five-unit level English bagrut exam since 2012. After a sharp decline between 2006 and 2010, the number of students testing at the most advanced math level has risen even more dramatically – 80% since 2012.
Given that the number of students in the 12th grade grew by only 13% during the same period, this is a very notable improvement.
In English, the situation is quite similar; the share of students in the Arab sector studying English at the highest level is much lower than in the Hebrew sector – under 17% in 2017, compared with about half of the students in non-Haredi Hebrew education. Nonetheless, it is important to note that the 2017 rate in Arab education is more than double the rate only seven years earlier, so this is a marked improvement and the situation seems on track to continue improving.
Among Bedouin students in particular the changes over the past decade or so have been drastic; between 2006 and 2017, the number of Bedouin students in the 12th grade almost doubled, the number of students with bagrut qualifications rose 2.5-fold, the number taking five units in math rose 4-fold, and the number taking five units in English increased more than 11-fold.
Another interesting finding is that almost all of the students taking advanced math are either enrolled in technological education (the vast majority in high technological tracks) or are science majors in an academic track. In fact, only 4.4% of those who took five units in math were enrolled in non-science academic majors.
Though large gaps still remain across sector and study track, the impressive increases in the number of Israeli high schoolers taking math and English at the five-unit level indicates that the Ministry of Education and its leaders have set concrete goals and that they have the means and the ability to achieve them.
Among students from 10th to 12th grade, the dropout rate declined from almost 10% in the 2003 school year to less than 8% in 2017. Excluding Haredi schools, where a large portion of the students move to yeshivas not under Ministry of Education supervision, the dropout rate declined even more: from about 9% to almost 5.5%.
Dropout rates by study tracks
The decline in dropout rates among students in the academic track in high school – where rates were low to begin with – was relatively small, while in the technology tracks, there was a substantial decline: the dropout rate was almost halved in a decade – from 9.5% in 2003 to 5.5% in 2017.
- In the high technology track, rates have dropped from a high of 4.5%, in 2006, to only 1.5%, in 2017 – a rate that is even lower than in the academic track.
- In the medium technology track, the rate decreased from 11% to 7%.
- The lowest technology track, saw the greatest decline in dropouts, from 28% to 19%.These trends show that, unlike in the past, technological education today gives its students similar opportunities for social mobility as academic track education.
Dropout rates by sector and gender
There has been a considerable decline in the dropout rate in the Arab education sector, from 15% to 8% between 2003 and 2017. Nonetheless, the rate is still higher for both boys and girls in Arab education than in Hebrew education.
- Dropout rates in the high technology track in the Arab sector stand at only 1% and are lower than in the high technology track in the Hebrew sector.
- Boys in Arab education have dropout rates that are 3 times higher than girls in the sector.
- In 2017, the dropout rate among girls in Arab education was almost 5% versus 3% among girls in Hebrew education. Among boys, the differences are even greater: about 11.5% in Arab education versus 5% in Hebrew education.
Dropout rates by socioeconomic status and geography
As would be expected, the dropout rate rises as the school Nurture Index rises (a higher Nurture Index indicates a student body of lower socioeconomic status) in both sectors. However, there are no substantial differences in dropout rates in different geographic regions of the country, at least when controlling for socioeconomic background factors.
- Arab education schools at the lowest Nurture Index ranking (highest socioeconomic ranking) had a dropout rate of only 2%, while the rate in the same schools in Hebrew education was 4.5%.
- In Hebrew education schools at the highest Nurture Index ranking (with the weakest socioeconomic ranking), the dropout rate was 8.5%. Among Arab students with a similar profile, the rate was only 6%.
- There are large differences in dropout rates in Arab education across geographic regions but, when controlling for socioeconomic background factors, these disparities are smaller and become non-significant in explaining the dropout rate. An exception is Arab education in the Tel Aviv district, where the dropout rate is 8.5 percentage points higher than in Hebrew education.
Dropout rates among immigrants
Among immigrants, and especially those who immigrated after the age of 12, dropout rates remain particularly high.
- The dropout rate for new immigrants is over 9%, compared to 3% among Israel-born students.
- The dropout rate for those who immigrated after the age of 12 remains high at 20%, while the rate is declining for those who immigrated at a younger age – from 10% to 6% between 2008 and 2017.Recent years have seen a considerable improvement in high school dropout rates overall as well as narrowing gaps between students in Hebrew education and Arab education. However this phenomenon is still present among weaker population groups, and should be addressed through innovative and targeted programs for these groups.
The past decades have seen remarkable changes in education within Arab Israeli society, with particularly prominent changes evident among Arab Israeli women.
Starting with high school, the portion of 14-17-year-olds enrolled in school grew from 63% in 1990 to 93% in 2015, with a steeper climb for girls than for boys. There was growth for the Jewish population also, but since the portion studying was far higher to begin with, the increase was much smaller – from 91% to 97%.
Within the high-school system, the share of students in technological-vocational education tracks (VET) has risen. As of 2017, more than 45% of students in the Arab education system were enrolled in VET studies, compared to 37% of students in the Hebrew education system. (The Israeli education system is divided into Hebrew and Arab education based on the supervisory authority and language of instruction.)
It is interesting to note that the greatest increase was among those entering the high technology education track (e.g., computer programming); here, too, the share among those in Arab education is higher than among those in Hebrew education. This trend is likely to improve their chances to integrate into the future labor market; the high technology track gives its students high-level math skills, which are in demand in high tech employment.
Although these science and technology studies are more prevalent in Arab education than in Hebrew education, unfortunately, the scholastic level of their bagrut (matriculation) qualification is on average lower, and fewer of their students study math and English at the highest proficiency level (5-units of study).
In general, the lower level of English (and Hebrew, which is also studied as an additional language) proficiency in the Arab Israeli sector harms their ability to integrate into high wage employment. Improving their proficiency in these languages is central to narrowing labor market gaps.
The increase in the share of Arab Israeli girls studying in the technology track, and particularly in the high technology track, is noteworthy. In 2017, 21% of the girls in Bedouin education and 31% in Christian education studied in the technology track.
In addition, their share in the science-engineering track is high, including in studies not traditionally considered “female subjects” such as computer science, electronic systems, technology science, and the like. Among Druze girls, more than half of those with a bagrut in science study in tracks other than biology and chemistry (which are not considered high tech oriented).
The percentage of those with a bagrut qualification has increased substantially over the past 20 years, as has the portion of those with a qualification that fulfills the requirements for acceptance to higher education. The most substantial gain was among Arab Israeli girls – in 2017, their achievements were close to those of their Jewish peers.
Among Arab Israeli boys, the increase was smaller, relative to both Arab Israeli girls and to Jewish boys. The share of boys with a bagrut in the Bedouin sector remains particularly low – only 25% – and it rose by only about 5 percentage points between 1999 and 2013.
With the increase in the share of those in Arab education with a bagrut certificate, the share of those entering higher education has also increased. However, the rise was mostly among Arab Israeli women, while the increase among men was much smaller.
The most marked increase was among the Druze and Bedouin women, where the rates of those entering higher education rose by about 50% between 2008 and 2013 and, in all likelihood, this upward trend has continued.
In terms of study majors in higher education, it is interesting to note that about a third of Arab Israeli students, both men and women, study health-related fields, either in Israel or abroad. That said, the past decade has seen a shift, with men with high grades studying computers and engineering (rather than health professions) at rates similar to those of their Jewish peers.
Despite the fact that we see more Arab Israeli high school girls studying these subjects, we do not yet see women in higher education studying science at high rates. Their share in academic level computer and engineering studies is lower than that of Arab Israeli men or of Jewish women.
Until 2014, of the Arab Israeli women who studied science in high school (excluding biology and chemistry), 22% of Christian and Druze women and only 9% of Muslim women continue their studies in related fields in academia.
These developments in education have had a tremendous influence on the employment of Arab Israelis. There is a positive relationship between higher education and employment, with higher employment rates among those with an academic education.
Employment rates among Arab Israeli women are on the rise; between 2003 and 2014, the employment rate rose by about 11 percentage points, an increase of almost 50%, and in the final third of 2018, it reached almost 40% of the population – only 1% shy of the 2020 employment target for Arab Israeli women set in 2010 by the then Ministry of Labor, Trade and Employment.
The rise in the employment rate of Arab Israeli women is strongly correlated with the increase in their education levels; Arab Israeli women with degrees are far more likely to work than are those without such a degree. Nevertheless, their employment rates are still much lower than those of Jewish women in Israel.
In light of the strong correlation between education and employment for Arab Israeli women, encouraging them to major in fields with the potential for subsequent high wage employment, particularly in technology and engineering fields, could have significant spillover effects.
A rise in these women’s salaries could serve as a beacon to other women, which can ultimately lead to increased education and employment rates, to an improvement in their socioeconomic situation, and to a decline in their poverty rates. For the same reason, it is worthwhile considering expanding vocational training programs and assistance given to Arab Israeli women who choose not to go on to academic studies and who, nonetheless, are interested in working.
Finally, turning to Arab Israeli men, their employment rates are lower than are those of non-Haredi men and lower than the OECD average. In 2018, about 75% of this group were employed as opposed to almost 90% of non-Haredi Jewish men.
Their lower education levels impact their employment opportunities, and a large portion of them are employed as skilled workers in manufacturing, construction, and agriculture. While this portion is falling, it is still high – about 50% in 2017. These are low prestige jobs that pay poorly, and are also likely to be computerized in the not-so-distant future, making these workers susceptible to losing their livelihood.
In addition, these jobs have high burn-out rates and, as a result, employment rates among Arab Israeli men over 50 are low. Men employed as skilled workers tend to have low education levels, particularly for Arab Israelis; the portion of Arab Israeli men without a higher education in these jobs is 60% versus 34% among Jewish men. Improving the education level of Arab Israeli men could help give them access to improved employment opportunities.
In light of the strong correlation between education and employment, policies and programs that encourage the Arab Israeli population to gain higher education and to find their place in high wage employment have the potential to be very beneficial to the Arab Israeli population and to contribute greatly to the continuing growth of the entire economy.
This is important because the clearer and more well-defined the budgeting formulas, the less likely that preferential treatment will be given to a certain sector. Nonetheless, a recently published Taub Center study shows that for Israel’s official primary schools that include grades 1-6 (not including ultra-Orthodox schools), the per class and per student budgetary formulas partially reflect not only educational considerations, but social and ideological considerations as well.
The first and central portion of the budget is called “the basic standard,” which is mostly based on the number of classes in a given school, and not the number of students. According to this formula, each class entitles the school to a certain number of teacher work hours, which comprise the main part of the school’s budget.
For budgetary purposes, the minimum number of students per class is 20, and each additional student entitles the school to a rather small supplementary budget (in the event that the number of students in a class is less than 20 the class receives only half of the basic standard budget). Thus, a rise in the number of students raises the budget per class, but budgeting per student goes down as the class size increases, as shown for the sample third-grade class depicted in the graph below.
The cutoff for the maximum number of students considered a “class” for budgeting purposes is different than the number of actual students per class, and is based on the school’s Nurture Index (the higher the index, the weaker the socioeconomic profile of the school’s students).
The cutoff is 32 students per class for schools in which students have the weakest socioeconomic background and 40 students per class for schools in which students have the strongest socioeconomic background. This means that, in practice, two schools with the same number of students could be considered as having a different number of budgetary classes, impacting the schools’ overall budgets.
In addition to “the basic standard, “dedicated baskets” are provided to schools in recognition of special needs or special projects, such as a longer school day, which requires extra teaching hours in every class.
Other dedicated baskets include the “nurture basket” for the purpose of providing resources to improve the educational achievements of students from weak socioeconomic backgrounds; the “mainstreaming basket” for integrating students with special needs in mainstream classes; the “absorption basket,” which is meant to help integrate students who are immigrants or returning residents into the school; and the “prayer time basket,” allocated for prayer hours in Hebrew State-religious schools.
Thus, a school’s actual per class and per student allocation is influenced by a number of different variables, including, among others: the school’s Nurture Index, school size, the presence of a long school day program, and the presence of Special Education classes. Additional factors, such as the median seniority of teachers and the share of teachers with advanced degrees, also influence this allocation.
Taub Center researchers found that, indeed, the vast majority of the budget differences are explained by the factors in the fixed budgetary formulas, making it difficult for education leaders to grant budgetary preferences to one type of school or another.
The variables that best explain the differences in budgeting between schools are the Nurture Index, school size and participation in a long school day program. As seen in the graph, “education sector” is actually the variable with the least influence among those measured.
With this, even after controlling for different aforementioned school characteristics, the study reveals what appears to be a hierarchy in primary school budgets across different education streams in Israel; budgets are highest in the Hebrew State-religious education system, followed by the Hebrew State education system, and are lowest in the Arab education system.
The high allocation for Hebrew State-religious education may be explained by the prevalence of several special budgetary baskets in Hebrew State-religious schools including prayer time, separate classes for boys and girls, and rabbi hours. All of these factors are meant to maintain the special character of the Hebrew State-religious education system.
Under its last four ministers, Israel’s Ministry of Education has focused many of its efforts on increasing the number and share of high school students in technological-vocational education (as opposed to academic education).
But how do trends in technological education over the last decade break down by gender? In honor of International Women’s Day, which took place this month, let’s take a closer look at the gender differences in technological education across Israel’s education streams.
In general, technological education in Israel has indeed grown in the past decade; as of 2017, 40% of 12th grade students were enrolled in technological education, compared to just over 33% in 2006. The number of high schools offering technological tracks has increased substantially over this time period, as well.
A new achievement-based classification system proposed by Taub Center researchers sorts technological majors into high, medium, and low technological tracks based on the bagrut qualification rates of the students in these tracks and the level of math and English studied.
This new classification shows that the share of technological students studying in majors with high achievement levels – those in the high technological tracks – has risen by 40% over the past decade.
Overall, the share of boys enrolled in technological education is higher than the share of girls in all of the education streams except for the Haredi stream.
However, when broken down into high technological, medium technological, and low technological tracks, there has been a substantial rise in the number of girls in the Arab education system choosing to study in high technological tracks.
In fact, unlike the Hebrew sector where the share of girls in the high technological track is considerably smaller than the share of boys, girls in Arab education make up a majority of students in the high technological track.
The most noteworthy change has taken place in Druze and Bedouin education. In Bedouin education, for example, the gap between the share of girls and boys studying in high technological tracks is largest: 21% compared to 12%, respectively. The great increase in the share of girls in all streams of Arab education in the high track is accompanied by a large increase in the bagrut qualification rate for this group and in the number of Arab Israeli women pursuing academic studies.
In contrast to the changes in the Arab sector, girls in the Hebrew education sector are still a minority in all scientific tracks in general, and, particularly, in high technological education.
The percentage of girls studying in high technological tracks is particularly low in the State-religious education system, even though the boys in the same system study these subjects at a higher rate than boys in any other education stream. While one out of four boys in the State-religious education system is enrolled in high technological education, the same is true for fewer than one out of every ten girls.
It appears that single-sex schools in the State-religious system result in fewer study options for religious girls. Indeed, only 18% of the religious girls’ schools offer high technological tracks, compared to 48% of all other schools (except Haredi schools).
Not offering high technological tracks could prevent interested religious girls from pursuing these majors. One possibility for increasing the options open to these girls is combining technological classes between a number of religious schools.
In Haredi education, the share of girls in the medium technological track rose from 9% to 46% between 2006 and 2017, with many of these students studying bookkeeping and human resources majors.
Whereas in the past the vast majority of Haredi women went into the teaching profession, the large increase in the share of Haredi girls enrolled in these majors seems to indicate that new career opportunities are opening up for Haredi women, in addition to the classic teaching track.
The large differences across education streams require varied, tailored approaches for encouraging girls who are interested to study technological subjects in high school at a high level. In the Arab sector, where the share of girls in the high technological track is already high, it is important to address the transition from high school to academia, where many Arab Israeli women pursue a degree in education despite having studied scientific majors in high school.
In the Haredi stream, the sharp increase in the share of girls enrolled in the medium technological track – which opens up more employment opportunities – is encouraging, but there is still much room to increase the share enrolled in the high technological track, which has hardly changed in the past decade.
In the State-religious stream, it is crucial to ensure that high technological tracks are offered in girls’ high schools, so that religious girls have the opportunity to study them.
It is, of course, important that each student choose a study major in high school that interests him or her. However, it is also worth noting that skills learned in high technological tracks are in-demand in the labor market and are associated with labor market opportunities and higher earning potential.
Encouraging interested girls to study these subjects could help to close gender gaps that emerge later on, in academia and the labor market.
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Under the last four education ministers, the Ministry of Education has focused much of its efforts on increasing the number and share of high school students in technological-vocational education. A second, related goal has been to increase the number and share of students taking the bagrut exams in math and English at the highest study level (five units). This study examines the profile of students in high school technological-vocational education according to a new achievement-based classification system of educational tracks proposed by the authors.
The growth of technological education in Israel
As of 2017, 40% of 12th grade students were enrolled in technological education (compared to just over 33% in 2006). Within that, 15% of the students study majors in the high technological track, 23% in the medium track, and less than 3% in the low track.
- Between 2006 and 2017, the share of students studying in the high technological track (where achievements are the highest) rose by 40%. This increase has come mainly from outstanding students transferring from the academic track to the high technological track. This is indicated by a decline in the share of high school students studying in the academic track from 67% to 60% during the same period.
- While the total number of students in the 12th grade increased between 2006 and 2017 by almost 18%, the number of students in academic track education increased by only about 4,000 students (a 6% increase), and the number of students in technological education increased by about 14,000 students (42% rise). The biggest increase was in the number of students in high technological education — about 7,000 students, or a 65% increase.
- The number of schools offering only an academic track increased by only 17 during this period, whereas the number of schools offering technological tracks rose by 291.
Technological education by sector and gender
The share of students in technological education increased in all of the education streams (Hebrew and Arab), but there are large differences between sectors and genders.
- The greatest increase in the share of students studying in high technological tracks was in the Arab education system, especially among Druze (20 percentage points) and Bedouins (11 percentage points).
- In 2017, the share of students in the high technological track in the entire Arab sector was higher than its share in the Hebrew education sector.
- The percentage of girls studying in the high technological track in Arab education has risen substantially, and is even higher than the percentage of boys. The gap between girls and boys in Bedouin education is the largest (21% compared to 12%, respectively).
- Only a small percentage of Jewish girls study in the high technological track, and the percentage is particularly low in the State-religious education system, whereas the percentage of boys in the high track is relatively high in State-religious education. It is possible that single-sex schools result in fewer study options for religious girls, because the number of high technological tracks offered in girls’ schools in the State-religious education stream is particularly low (only 18% of the schools offer these tracks, compared to 48% of all other schools (except Haredi schools)).
- In Haredi education, the share of girls in the medium technological track rose from 9% to 46% between 2006 and 2017, with many of these students studying bookkeeping and human resources majors. Whereas in the past the vast majority of Haredi women went into the teaching profession, the large increase in the share of Haredi girls enrolled in these majors seems to indicate that they are now pursuing other areas of study.
Technological education: socioeconomic and academic background
As expected, students’ socioeconomic background is highly correlated with the level of academic achievement in each of the technological tracks: the students in the high technological track come from the strongest backgrounds, followed by the students in the medium and low tracks. In Hebrew education, those in the academic and high technological tracks have similar backgrounds, while, in the Arab sector, those in the high track come from slightly stronger backgrounds.
- In Hebrew education, parents’ average years of schooling for students in the high technological and academic tracks is about 13.7 years, while in the Arab sector, it is 11.8 years in the high track and 10.5 years in the academic track.
- Though the socioeconomic profile of Arab Israeli students in the high technological track is much lower than that of Jews, their bagrut qualification rates are similar to their Jewish counterparts: around 90%. Even among Bedouin students – whose socioeconomic status is particularly low – the bagrut qualification rate is about 74%.
- The 8th grade mathematics skills of students in high technological education (according to Meitzav scores) is higher than those of students in academic education and medium and low technological education: the average percentile of students in the high technological track is 16 points higher in the Jewish population and 20 points higher in the Arab population than that of students in academic education.
After years of decline in the number of students studying math and English at the five unit level (the highest level), these rates are now increasing.
- While the number of students in the 12th grade grew by 18% from 2006 to 2017, the bagrut qualification rate rose by 42%.
- The number of students taking math at the five unit level declined between 2006 and 2012, but has risen by 56% since 2012. In the Arab sector, in 2006, the share of students studying math at the five unit level was lower than in the Hebrew sector — 11% compared to 15.5%. Until 2012, the decrease was larger in the Arab sector, and the recovery since has been slower.
- The number of those taking the English bagrut exam at the five unit level increased by 20% between 2013 and 2017 (over and above the increase in the overall number of students). However, the share of those learning English at such a high level is relatively low in the Arab Israeli sector and stood at only 17% in 2017, compared to 51% among Jews.
- In 2017, of all students taking five units in math, 47% were students in technological education, most of them in the high technological track.
- The share of students taking five units in math who do not study in the high technological track or in a scientific academic track is very low, and declining: only 6% of students who took math at this level in 2017 are enrolled in non-science academic majors.
The per class and per student budget (the study deals only with budgets allocated by the Ministry of Education) in regular official primary education (institutions containing grades 1-6 only) increased significantly in recent years. Most school budgets are allocated according to fixed formulas. However, despite the universal formulas, after controlling for various school characteristics, budgeting is highest in State-religious schools and lowest in Arab Israeli schools.
Primary education budgeting
The budgeting of primary schools in Israel today is determined by a combination of three main budgeting sources that reflect educational, social, and ideological considerations.
1. The basic allocation (“the basic standard”): this guarantees a minimum number of teacher work hours necessary to provide the required curriculum and achieve other educational goals.
- The basic standard part of the budget transferred to educational institutions depends on the number of classes and not on the number of students. Given that 20 students is the minimum number of students per class, each additional student entitles the school to a supplementary budget and when the number of students is less than 20 the class receives only half of the basic standard budget. Thus, a rise in the number of students raises the budget per class, but budgeting per student goes down the larger the class size.
- The cutoff for the number of students considered a “class” for budgeting purposes (regardless of how many classes the students are split into in practice) is different based on the school’s Nurture Index (the higher the index, the weaker the socioeconomic profile of the school’s students): 32 for schools with a weakest socioeconomic background and 40 for schools with a highest socioeconomic background. On the ground, this means that two schools with the same number of students could be considered as having a different number of budgetary classes, impacting the schools’ overall budgets.
- An educational policy decision to gradually reduce the number of students per class to a maximum of 34 applies to all students in grades 1-3 as of the end of 2018.
2. Dedicated “baskets”: these budgets are added to the basic standard, according to fixed formulas, based on the school’s student profile. They are “earmarked” for specific purposes.
- The Nurture basket – which has the purpose of improving educational achievements of students from weak socioeconomic backgrounds and was increased in 2014.
- The mainstreaming basket – which aims to integrate students with special needs into regular classrooms – is allocated by a fixed formula: 5.4% of all students in all schools receive an addition of 1.85 weekly teaching hours each.
- The prayer time basket – for prayer hours at Hebrew State-religious schools – is 1.22 weekly hours per standard class.
- The absorption basket – for immigrants and returning residents – takes into account country of origin and length of presence in Israel.
3. Other allocations (“baskets”): additional discretionary baskets based on a school’s inclusion in specific projects, or that stem from a recognition of a special need.
Factors that influence the school budget
The study takes a closer look and examines the influence of various school variables on budgeting per class and per student: the Nurture Index, school size, whether the school is part of the long school day program or not, the presence or absence of Special Education classes, the education sector and school supervisory authority, the median seniority of teachers, and the share of teachers with advanced degrees.
The results focus on two main aspects: the marginal effect of each variable on budgeting and the degree to which each variable contributes to the explained variance.
The results of a multivariate analysis, after controlling for various school characteristics, shows that most of the per student budget and of the per class budget can be explained by these variables:
- The vast majority of the explained variance – 87% for per class budgeting and 92% for per student budgeting – has to do with factors that are difficult to influence, such as: Nurture Index, participation in the “long school day” program, and the size of the school.
- Sector and type of supervision, on the other hand, explain a much smaller share of the explained variance: about 13% for per class budget and 8% for per student budget.
The main developments in the education system in the last years have taken place over four dimensions of the system: the composition of the student population, the Ministry of Education budget, the profile of the teaching personnel, and students’ educational achievements.
Composition of the student population
The student population in Israel is growing, but the growth has not been consistent over time, across age levels, or across population subgroups.
- Israel’s student population has increased by about 44% since 2000 (an increase of 2% per year), which is exceptional compared to other developed countries.
- While the growth rate is declining in the Haredi, Arab, Bedouin, and Druze education systems, it is rising in Hebrew State and State-religious education.
The number of children in preschool increased between 2000 and 2015 by 81% (compared to a 43% growth in the total population). The fastest growth rate was between 2010 and 2015 and coincided with the implementation of the free Compulsory Education Law for ages 3-4.
An examination of the Ministry of Education’s budget shows an increase in the share of the budget allocated for Special Education and an increase in per-student expenditure.
- The Ministry of Education budget increased by 83% in real terms between 2005 and 2018. The budget increased due to a rise in the number of students, the signing of the Ofek Chadash and Oz LeTmura labor agreements, the implementation of the Compulsory Education Law for ages 3-4, and the introduction of resource-heavy programs such as reducing the number of children per class.
- The budget for Special Education increased at almost twice the rate of the overall education budget, mainly due to the tremendous rise (127%) in the number of students in Special Education.
- The growth in the number of Special Education students was particularly fast among students diagnosed with autism – their number rose from 894 in 2000 to 11,145 in 2018 – and students with serious behavioral disorders – their number rose from 2,347 to 17,483 over the same period.
- The Ministry of Education’s real budget per student increased between 2000 and 2014 at a higher rate than in the OECD. In 2015, the expenditure per student in primary education in Israel was $7,981 (PPP dollars) compared to $8,631 in the OECD. The corresponding figures in high school education were $7,987 in Israel compared to $10,010 in the OECD. Given recent developments, it is reasonable to believe that differences in the rate of change of expenditure per student between Israel and the OECD will continue to grow.
As a whole, the feminization of the teaching profession has come to a halt (except in Arab education) and there has been a real improvement in the academic level of teaching personnel.
- Feminization: In primary school, the share of women working in Hebrew education dropped from 90% of teaching personnel in 2000 to 86% in 2017, while, in Arab education, the share of women rose from 65% to 78%. Similarly, in high school, the feminization process stalled in Hebrew education (87% of teachers were women in 2010 compared to 86% in 2018), and grew stronger in Arab education (increase from 36% in 2000 to 57% in 2018).
- Academic level: In primary school, the share of teachers in Hebrew education with an academic degree rose from 50% in 2000 to 89% in 2018, while, in Arab education, their share rose from 37% to 94% (surpassing the share in Hebrew education). In high school in both streams the process of academization of the teaching faculty is nearly complete (having reached 92%).
- Teacher supply: In Israel, it is expected that when there is a teacher surplus there will be a drop in the teacher hours worked. In primary school, the average teaching job in Hebrew education rose from a 73%-time position in 2000 to 77% in 2018. In Arab education, despite oft-heard claims of a surplus of teachers in the Arab sector, average job positions increased slightly from an 82%-time position to 84%. These trends indicate that there is not a surplus of teachers at the primary school level. On the other hand, in high school there was a drop in the average job position in Hebrew education from 78%-time in 2010 to 70% in 2018 and a drop in Arab education from 95%-time to 85%.
There are large gaps between Israeli students on the Meitzav exams and, on international exams, these gaps are among the largest of the participating countries, especially among the developed countries. At the same time, Israel has been improving educational achievements and reducing achievement gaps on national and international exams in recent decades.
- There has been a significant improvement in Meitzav exam scores in Israel, with an impressive rise of half a standard deviation throughout all the tests (5th grade math and English; 8th grade math, English and Science).
- Israel’s improvement on international exams has been larger than the average improvement in all countries, and larger than the average improvement of the countries that participated in the first and last tests examined in the study. In fact, Israel was one of the top three countries in terms of improving test scores for the PIRLS and TIMSS tests evaluated in the study and ranked first in reducing gaps on the PIRLS test and the PISA test in math and sciences.
- In comparison to the average scores of the countries that participated in all of the international tests in the study period, Israel’s average score was nearly always lower than the average, but the gap between the two narrowed substantially.
Progress in Israel’s education system has been significant in recent decades, but, given the important role the education system plays in creating a strong and thriving society, we need to understand and address the gaps that still exist.
It is widely agreed that education is the key to future opportunities, success, and intergenerational economic mobility, and thus, that educational inequality should be reduced among children in Israel.
The prevailing assumption is that inequalities in education can be reduced through changes to the traditional K-12 education system, but studies from around the world show that scholastic-achievement disparities between children from different socioeconomic backgrounds appear already at younger ages.
Recently, the Taub Center published a comprehensive literature review on early childhood. The literature review, conducted by Prof. Yossi Shavit, Prof. Isaac Friedman, Prof. John Gal, and Dana Vaknin, discusses the various ways in which economic inequality experienced in early childhood may lead to inequality in scholastic achievements later in life.
It also maps out the existing evidence about the impact of early childhood education on child development and future achievements.
According to the literature, the environment a child is exposed to in his or her early years is of critical importance to the development of the brain and the central nervous system. This is the time of life when the brain is most malleable.
Negative influences during pregnancy and early childhood, such as stress, can disrupt normal cognitive and emotional development. Not only does childhood poverty have an impact on chronic stress, but there is also evidence that children of high socioeconomic status have an easier time recovering from damage caused by stress during the mother’s pregnancy than those of lower socioeconomic status.
At the same time, children from low socioeconomic backgrounds may suffer from a lack of sensory stimuli and enriching experiences, which can negatively affect the development of cognitive abilities and social and emotional skills, as well as future scholastic achievement.
The findings of the study are particularly relevant for Israel for two main reasons: Firstly, inequality in scholastic achievements in Israel is among the highest in the developed world.
In fact, the gap between Israel’s top- and bottom-performing students on the 2015 PISA exams was among the widest of all participating countries for each of the test’s sections: scientific literacy, reading literacy, and math. Secondly, a high percentage of children in Israel live in poverty, particularly among the Arab Israeli and Haredi populations (though also in other segments of Israeli society) – and, as mentioned earlier, poverty and scholastic inequality may well be related to one another.
A number of policy options should be explored in Israel in order to address poverty in early childhood and its impact on future scholastic achievements, including:
- Substantially increasing access to daycare and improving the quality of care: Research has shown that the educational programs with the highest rates of return (where we get the biggest bang for our buck) are those that target the youngest children, from birth to age 5. Yet in Israel, only 20% of children ages 0-3 attend recognized and supervised daycare centers or family daycare (only 10.6% in the Arab Israeli sector). Increasing the supply of high quality early childhood education programs may help to address this issue.
- Comprehensive interventions at the community level, focusing on families with young children living in poverty: Poverty and distress can make it hard for parents to provide their children with the best possible developmental environment. Directly and holistically addressing the diverse needs of families and communities in poverty can make a big difference.
- Directly addressing poverty more comprehensively and effectively: Direct intervention could help to curb the prevalence of child poverty to begin with through measures like increasing social assistance benefits, child allowances (particularly, increasing the allowance paid to families with young children), and work grants for parents.
The existing literature builds a strong case for the importance of early childhood care and education, its impact on future scholastic achievements, and the power of interventions during this critical period to narrow social gaps. It also raises the need for more research in this area and, in particular, for studies examining the situation in Israel that could help inform future policy.
The Taub Center gratefully acknowledges The Bernard Van Leer Foundation for its generous support of the literature review.
What will the religious makeup of the Jewish population in Israel look like in the coming decades? According to the projections of Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) population will grow very quickly and compose about 50% of the Jewish population in Israel by 2059.
These projections have raised serious concerns regarding the sustainability of the economy given the education and employment patterns of contemporary Haredim. However, there are a number of significant demographic shifts occurring, some of which, it seems, have not been fully accounted for in the CBS forecasts.
In their recent study, Taub Center researchers Prof. Alex Weinreb and Nachum Blass examine trends in religious mobility among Israeli Jews, as reflected in data on student enrollment in different streams of the public education system: State-secular, State-religious, and Haredi. Their analyses point to two main findings:
Finding 1: First grade enrollment doesn’t match fertility rates
The CBS projections are based on fertility rates – which are much higher among Haredi Jews in Israel than among national religious Jews, and higher among national religious Jews than among traditional and secular Jews.
As expected, the number of students enrolled in first grade in the Haredi education stream increased at the fastest rate between 2001 and 2015, in keeping with the high fertility rates in this sector. However, relative to prior fertility, that rate of growth in enrollment was less than expected – 7.5% lower in the 2013-2015 period.
Meanwhile, the State-secular education system increased at an annual growth rate of over 2% between 2001 and 2015 – much faster than expected given prior fertility rates in the secular and traditional populations.
Finding 2: Net movement from more to less religious education streams
Between 1st and 8th grade, many more students move toward less religious education streams than in the opposite direction. Specifically, between 2001 and 2015, there was a net flow (subtracting transfers in the opposite direction) of 9.0% of boys and 6.4% of girls from Haredi to one of the less religious streams by 8th grade (about 60% to State-religious schools, the rest to State-secular schools).
Likewise, there was a net flow of 16.4% of boys and 11.7% of girls away from State-religious schools toward the State-secular education stream.
What does all of this tell us about religious mobility?
These two findings – the mismatch between prior fertility and 1st grade enrollment, and the net flow of students from more to less religious education frameworks – suggest that, while the Haredi and religious communities in Israel will continue to grow, the pace of growth of these populations is slower than expected.
In fact, Weinreb and Blass show that if these trends continue, they will have a significant impact on the future composition of Israeli society. Whereas the CBS projections (the solid lines in the below graph) predict that for every 100 non-Haredi Jews in 2059 there will be about 50 Haredim, taking trends in religious mobility into account (the dotted lines in the graph), suggests there will be closer to 35 Haredim for every 100 non-Haredi Jews.
In the meantime, many other changes are taking place in Haredi society, including a rise in the number studying in higher education and a rise in the employment rates. Alongside the trends in religious mobility, these suggest that the effect of demographic changes on Israel’s future economy may not be as extreme as many think.
The Taub Center gratefully acknowledges The Bernard Van Leer Foundation for its generous support of this project.
This literature review, conducted by Prof. Yossi Shavit, Prof. Isaac Friedman, Prof. John Gal, and Dana Vaknin, discusses the various ways in which economic inequality experienced in early childhood may lead to inequality in scholastic achievement later in life.
It is widely agreed that education is the key to future opportunities, success, and intergenerational economic mobility, and that equal educational opportunity should be assured for all of Israel’s children.
The prevailing assumption is to address inequalities in education through changes to the education system, but studies show that scholastic-achievement disparities between children belonging to different socioeconomic strata appear already at very young ages.
Socioeconomic and Scholastic-Achievement Inequalities
Inequality in scholastic achievements in Israel is among the highest in the developed world, and the main cause is economic inequality.
- Despite a slight decline in recent years, Israel leads the OECD in disposable income inequality. In 2015, the share of children ages 0-17 living in poor families was 25%. The incidence of poverty among children in Israel is very high compared to the norm for welfare states, and child poverty is especially prevalent among the Arab Israeli and Haredi populations.
- Inequality in scholastic performance is also particularly high in Israel. The PISA 2015 results indicate that the gap between the score representing Israel’s 5th percentile and the score representing Israel’s 95th percentile ranks in the top three of all participating countries for scientific literacy, reading literacy, and math.
Stress and Sensory Stimulation
The research literature suggests that prolonged exposure to environmental experiences in early ages is of critical importance to the development of the brain and the central nervous system, and that early childhood is a time when the brain has the most “plasticity” and is particularly open to change.
This review argues that the lack of exposure to cognitive stimuli in early childhood, as well as exposure to chronic stress situations, may inhibit the normal development of cognitive and non-cognitive skills.
- Studies show that stress during the young brain’s developmental stages can disrupt normal cognitive and emotional development. Similarly, stress experienced by a mother during pregnancy may affect the development of the fetus and the infant in the future.
- Not only does childhood poverty have an impact on chronic stress, but there is also evidence that the degree of recovering from damage caused by gestational stress is closely related to family socioeconomic status – with children of high socioeconomic status recovering more readily than those of lower socioeconomic status.
- The family’s socioeconomic status may affect the supply of sensory stimuli available to young children, which in turn influence brain development. Therefore, children who grow up in an environment of chronic poverty may suffer from persistent deprivation of exposure to enriching experiences, which may affect the optimal development of cognitive abilities and social and emotional skills, as well as future scholastic achievement.
- Experiential deprivation during “critical periods” of brain development and lack of exposure to certain vital stimuli while the brain has optimal plasticity, can be very difficult to compensate for later in life.
Policy Options: Addressing Poverty in Early Childhood and its Impact on Scholastic Achievements
Interventions aimed at coping with the consequences of early childhood poverty and inequality on the educational achievements of children can focus on a wide range of areas – labor market, healthcare system, education system, etc. The review focuses on three approaches:
1. Substantially increasing access to daycare and improving the quality of care
Educational frameworks for young children could mitigate the disadvantages of growing up in a family of low socioeconomic background and can lead to better cognitive performance and non-cognitive development later on. In fact, research has shown that the educational programs with the highest rates of return are those that target the youngest age group, from birth to age 5.
In Israel, only 20% of children ages 0-3 attend recognized and supervised daycare centers or family daycare (only 10.6% in the Arab Israeli sector). Consideration should be given to policies that would substantially increase the supply of high quality ECEC (early childhood education and care) programs and allow easier access to daycare centers for children whose parents do not regularly and continuously participate in the labor market. There should also be special emphasis on developing a system of daycare centers to serve the Arab Israeli population.
2. Comprehensive interventions at the community level, focusing on families with young children living in poverty
Poverty and distress can make it hard for parents to provide their children with the best possible developmental environment. Directly and holistically addressing the diverse needs of families through “poverty-aware social work” can make a big difference, but cannot be done on a large scale without a major expansion of community-level programs.
3. Addressing poverty more comprehensively and effectively
Another approach is direct intervention to curb the prevalence of child poverty. This could be accomplished through increasing social assistance benefits, increasing universal child allowances (or, particularly, the allowances of families with young children), and improving working families’ access to work grants.
What will the religious makeup of the Israeli population look like in the coming decades? According to the projections of the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), the Haredi population will compose about 50% of the Jewish population in Israel by 2059. However, this assessment does not take into account religious mobility between the different sectors.
In this study, researchers Prof. Alex Weinreb and Nachum Blass examine trends in religious mobility among Israeli Jews, as reflected by the movement of students between sectors in the education system, and find that the bulk of the movement is towards less religious streams. The study finds that the State education system is larger than would be expected on the basis of fertility rates in each sector, while the State-religious and Haredi education systems are smaller than would be expected.
First grade enrollment doesn’t match fertility rates
The study determines the number of students in first grade according to type of school supervision, and compares this to their expected number given fertility rates in the various religious population groups
- As expected, the number of students enrolled in the Haredi education stream increased at the fastest rate between 2001 and 2015: from about 16,700 1st graders to about 28,000. In the State-religious stream the increase was from about 15,000 to about 21,500 students, and in the State education stream from about 45,000 to about 62,500.
- From 2013-2015, the number of students in the Haredi education stream was about 7.5% lower than expected given fertility rates in the Haredi sector.
- From 2001 to 2015, the State education system increased at an annual growth rate of over 2% –higher than expected given fertility rates among the secular and traditional populations.
- During the same period, the increase in the number of students in the State-religious education system was consistent with fertility trends.
Transfers from first to eighth grade show a net flow towards less religious education streams
The study records which religious education stream students belonged to at the beginning of the research period (1st grade) and at the end (8th grade).
- Almost 98% of the students who attended State schools in 1st grade remained in this stream in 8th grade.
- The share of those leaving the State-religious education stream was about 20% of girls and 25% of boys. Most of these students transferred to the State education system, and only a few completed the research period in Haredi schools.
- About 11% of girls and 13% of boys left the Haredi education system. 6.5% transferred to the State-religious system and about 4.5% transferred to the State system.
- Across the 2001-2015 period, there was a net flow of 9.0% of boys and 6.4% of girls from Haredi to one of the less religious streams by 8th grade (about 60% to religious schools, the rest to State schools). Likewise, there was a net flow of 16.4% of boys and 11.7% of girls away from State-religious schools toward the State education stream.
Religious mobility in Israel: towards secularization
The net flow of students from more to less religious education frameworks seems to indicate the direction of religious mobility in Israeli society: a slowdown in the growth of the Haredi and religious populations and a slight increase in the growth rate of the secular population. The Haredi population will certainly continue to grow, but at a slower pace than expected.
If these trends continue, they will have a significant impact on the future composition of Israeli society. Though the CBS projections predict that for every 100 non-Haredi Jews in 2059 there will be about 50 Haredim, if trends in religious mobility are taken into account, there will be closer to 35 Haredim for every 100 non-Haredi Jews.
The full chapter can be accessed using the link on the right.
Social ostracism is a common phenomenon in schools in Israel, and causes great suffering to the children who are its victims. Ostracism is a form of relational bullying, i.e., bullying that occurs mainly through non-physical violence, characterized by repetition and asymmetrical power relations between the attacker and the victim. Both ostracism and other forms of bullying can have long-term emotional and educational effects on students who experience these forms of school violence, and even on students who are witnesses to them.
This study examines the phenomenon of ostracism and bullying in schools in Israel, and focuses on the relationship between the likelihood of experiencing ostracism and sector, class, gender and grade level. It also reviews changes in patterns of ostracism over time.
The extent of the phenomenon of ostracism
How likely are pupils in Israel to be ostracized by their peers in school?
- In 2015, 5.6% of the pupils reported that in the previous month they had been ostracized, and nearly 4% reported that there had been a call to ostracize them online.
- Although a minority of the pupils experienced ostracism (5.6%), in over 60% of classes there is at least one child who suffers from ostracism.
- The phenomenon of ostracism is more common in the primary school years, in grades 5 and 6, and the share of children experiencing ostracism drops as the pupils’ age rises.
Characteristics of pupils who experience ostracism
The researchers examined trends among pupils experiencing ostracism by sector, gender, and socioeconomic status.
- There are large gaps between the educational streams in the share of pupils who report ostracism: about 11% in Arab education as compared with 3.4% in Hebrew education. In 79% of the classes in Arab education there is at least one pupil who suffers from ostracism, compared to 50% of classes in Hebrew education.
- There are also gaps within the Arab education system: 15% of pupils in the Bedouin education system reported ostracism, 10% in the Arab system, and 7% in the Druze system.
- Jewish girls reported that they were victims of ostracism at slightly higher rates than Jewish boys: 5.2% compared to 4.7%. In the Arab Israeli sector, the opposite is true: about 17% of boys reported being victims of ostracism, compared to 13.5% of girls. The finding in the Arab Israeli sector challenges a widespread claim worldwide that ostracism is more prevalent among girls.
- Pupils with lower socioeconomic backgrounds suffer from ostracism at higher rates than pupils from higher socioeconomic backgrounds (as reflected in parents’ levels of education): among pupils whose parents have 11 or fewer years of schooling, 16% of Arab Israeli pupils and 6% of Jewish pupils reported ostracism, compared to 11% among Arab Israelis and 4% among Jews whose parents have 16 or more years of schooling.
- In classrooms where average parental education is low, pupils are more likely to suffer from ostracism, even when controlling for their individual parents’ education.
Ostracism and school performance
A significant negative correlation was found between reporting ostracism and grades, both in math and in English.
- In both Hebrew and Arab education, pupils who report being ostracized score an average of 4 points lower in math.
- In English, there is a significant difference by sector: pupils suffering from ostracism score 8 points lower on average in Arab education and 4 points lower on average in Hebrew education.
Trends in ostracism over time
- Between 2007 and 2015 there was a significant decline in the share of pupils experiencing ostracism: from 18% to 11% in Arab education and from 5% to 3.4% in Jewish education. The decline is most significant among those suffering from the highest levels of ostracism – primary school pupils and pupils in the Arab education system. The causes of the decline should be examined in order to apply them to additional classrooms in Israel’s education system.
The Taub Center gratefully acknowledges The Diane P. and Guilford Glazer Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles for its generous support of this project.
In recent years there have been major changes in education and employment trends in the Arab Israeli society. The chapter examines these trends by sub-group within the sector and by gender, and finds that there have been substantial improvements in post-secondary and higher education – though there are large gaps between the various sub-groups.
The rate of qualifying for a bagrut (matriculation) certificate rose significantly
The rate of those entitled to a bagrut certificate increased substantially between 1999 and 2013 but, while bagrut achievements by Arab Israeli women are approaching those of Jewish women, the increase among Arab Israeli men was more moderate.
- It seems that a major factor contributing to educational gaps between Jews and Arab Israelis is the lower socioeconomic status of the Arab Israeli population. When controlling for socioeconomic backgrounds, the matriculation (bagrut) rates among all sub-groups of Arab Israeli women are higher than (or equal to) those among Jewish women. Among men there are still gaps favoring Jewish men – and these gaps have increased over the past decade.
- A high percentage of Arab Israelis qualifying for a matriculation certificate studied in a scientific-engineering track. The differences between Jewish and Arab Israelis are particularly prominent among women: 39% of Jewish women who qualified for a matriculation certificate in 2013 studied in scientific-engineering tracks, as compared with 71% of Bedouin women and 84% of Christian women, and in the Arab Israeli sector there is a female majority in most scientific-engineering tracks.
Higher education – a large share of women pursue occupations in the fields of health and education
- The share of those pursuing higher education has increased greatly among Arab Israeli women, particularly among Bedouin and Druze women – an increase of nearly 50% between 2008 and 2013. Among men the improvement was much smaller, although the data do not include Arab Israeli men pursuing an academic degree abroad.
- Arab Israeli women (especially Muslims and Bedouins) still pursue occupations in the education field at very high rates – a field that facilitates working within their localities. This trend may lead to employment difficulties: 59% of those who applied to teach in the Arab school system did not receive placements in the 2013-2014 school year. If there is not a significant drop in the share of female students studying for a teaching certificate, this percentage is likely to increase as the percentage of female Arab Israeli graduates increases.
- As in the past, many Arab Israeli men pursue academic studies in health-related fields (both in Israel and abroad), but there has also been an increase in the share pursuing engineering and computer science degrees – which may open the door to new fields of employment.
- The average psychometric exam score of Arab Israelis is lower than the average score among Jews. It seems that a larger portion of Arab Israelis who take the exam do not reach the threshold required to be admitted into various study programs in academic institutions, as about half of Arab Israeli men who took the psychometric exam did not go on to study in higher education in Israel (although some studied abroad).
How much do Arab Israelis earn in comparison to Jews?
- Wage gaps between Jews and Arab Israelis are low among graduates with degrees in the fields of health and education, but are large among those who studied engineering, computer science, business administration and management. In the fields of engineering and computer science, high wage gaps stem largely from differences in the sectors in which the graduates of these fields are employed: Jewish academics tend to be employed in more profitable industries (for example, 28% of Jewish graduates are employed in programming, compared with 16% of Arab Israeli graduates).
What are the differences between the different sub-groups?
The Christian population has the highest achievements on all indices: bagrut exams, the share of the population with an academic degree and fields of employment, and the gaps between the Christian and Jewish populations have been decreasing over time. Among the Muslim population, which is the largest sub-group, there were general improvements on educational indices, gaps favoring women over men, and a marked tendency to pursue degrees in the fields of health and education. The achievements of the Druze population are mixed: they have particularly high matriculation rates and their employment rates are high as well. On the other hand, the fields in which they are employed are limited and a high percentage of those with a degree are employed in the defense system. The Bedouin population has the lowest achievements on all indices, despite a significant improvement among women. The vast majority of Bedouins with an academic degree work in education.
The full chapter can be accessed using the link on the right.
This introduction discusses recent developments in the Israeli education system. In the Explanatory Notes to the Budget, the last two Ministers of Education identified and emphasized the same goals: (1) reduce gaps in budget allocations between different socioeconomic strata and population sectors; (2) reduce the average number of pupils per class; (3) increase the percentage of pupils studying high-level mathematics (five units); (4) increase the number of pupils in technical-vocational education and their share out of all pupils in secondary education.
- While the combined Haredi and Arab Israeli share of the education system rose from 15% to almost 50% between 1960 and 2000, and continued to rise between 2000 and 2010, the situation changed between 2010 and 2016: growth in the number of Arab Israeli first graders ceased and even became negative, while in the Haredi sector, growth declined, and is now no greater than that of the other Jewish population groups.
From 2000-2016 the Ministry of Education budget increased by 86% in real terms. The number of employed teaching personnel grew by 55% and the number of classes by 34%, while the number of pupils in the schools increased by only 30%.
Goal 1: Reduce budget allocation gaps
Expenditure per pupil increased throughout the education system, but mainly for the stronger socioeconomic classes (the upper quintiles).
- Between 2013/14 and 2015/16, NIS 878 million were added to the total budget for official primary education, of which only NIS 215 million (24%) were added for pupils in the two lowest Nurture Index quintiles. The total addition for middle schools was NIS 600 million, of which NIS 172 million (29%) were for the two lowest quintiles.
- In terms of teaching hours per pupil, schools in Jewish primary education in the lowest quintile experienced only minor changes in budget (an increase of about 2%), while in the lower quintiles of Arab Israeli primary schools, there was an increase of 3-5% on average. However, the number of hours per pupil in Arab Israeli education in all quintiles is still much lower than the number of hours per pupil in the Jewish sector.
Goal 2: Reduce number of pupils per class
- Results of efforts to reduce the number of students per class were primarily evident in the Arab education stream, where classes had previously been very large. A very small change in class size occurred in the Jewish sector, mostly concentrated in the well-off quintiles.
Goal 3: Increase share of pupils studying five units of math
- Between 2014 and 2016, the share of pupils eligible for bagrut with five units of math rose from 9.5% to 11.4% of all bagrut exam takers. However, this may be due in part to changes in the demographic composition of Israel’s twelfth grade population.
Goal 4: Increase share of pupils in technical-vocational education
- Since 2010, the share of post-secondary pupils in technical-vocational education has risen to 35% in the Jewish sector (from to 32% in 2010) and to 43% in the Arab Israeli sector (from 40% in 2010), for a total of 37.4% in 2016.
In 2015, the Taub Center published a brief examining the developments in education and employment among the Ethiopian Israeli population between 1998 and 2011. The study found that the education level of those who came to Israel at an older age is low, while Ethiopian Israelis who grew up and were educated in Israel enjoy greater educational achievements.
This policy brief looks more into education and wages among Ethiopian Israelis and, in particular, explores differences between the genders. While Ethiopian Israeli women’s educational achievements are getting closer to the rest of their Jewish peers, the gaps among the men remain large.
For many years, the Arab Israeli (Arab) education system suffered neglect and discrimination reflected in large disparities relative to the Jewish (Hebrew) sector system — both in terms of resources allocated and in terms of academic achievements. Although these disparities continue to exist, Principal Researcher Nachum Blass finds evidence that there has been significant improvement in the achievements of Arab Israeli students in recent years and that the gaps are narrowing.
In particular, when comparing students of similar socioeconomic backgrounds, the achievements of students in the Arab education system have not only improved considerably over the years, but are approaching those of students in the Hebrew education system – and even surpassing them in some areas.
Resource allocation: budgets, teachers’ qualifications, and smaller classes
Despite disparities in budget per student and per class, the gaps in teacher quality and number of students per class have nearly closed between the two education streams.
The budget per student in the Arab education system remains much lower than in the Hebrew education system. While NIS 20,000 was allocated per primary school student in the Hebrew stream in 2015, only about NIS 16,000 was allocated in the Arab education stream. Nonetheless, the per-student budget has increased more rapidly over time in the Arab stream than in the Hebrew stream.
On the other hand, there has been improvement in the Arab stream in teacher qualifications, which in educational research are often indicated by teachers’ levels of education. The share of teachers with an academic degree in the Arab education system actually exceeds the share in the Hebrew education system at every level of schooling.
In addition, the share of teachers with a Master’s degree in the Arab system is growing and approaching that of teachers in Hebrew education, though notable gaps remain among teachers in post-primary education.
In a similar vein, though the Ministry of Education’s efforts to reduce the size of classes did not bring about considerable change in the Hebrew education system, the results were more impressive in Arab education. By 2015, the number of students per class in Arab primary and middle schools was lower than in the Hebrew education system, and only in high school was it higher.
Educational outcomes: enrollment, scholastic achievements, and international exams
More Arab Israeli students are enrolled in school and in higher education than in the past, and their scholastic achievements have risen in a number of subjects. However, large scholastic achievement gaps remain between the streams, both on national and international exam scores.
Enrollment rates in Arab primary and middle schools rose considerably between 1990 and 2015. Particularly striking is the rise in enrollment among girls in the Arab education system: from 59% to 94% during this period. In addition, there was an increase in the percentage of Arab Israelis admitted to higher education institutions within Israel and in the share of all degree holders in Israel who are Arab Israeli.
Despite this progress, it is important to note that in 2015 a much smaller percentage of young Arab Israelis (25-34) had more than 13 years of schooling than of Jews: only 36% as compared with 72%.
In terms of achievements on the fifth grade Meitzav exams, there was a substantial increase in math scores and a moderate increase in English scores among Arabic speakers between 2007 and 2016, which narrowed the gaps between the two education streams in these subjects.
On the eighth grade Meitzav exams during the same period, the gap in scores narrowed in science and technology, but the gap in math scores increased, and the gap in English remained unchanged. Classifying students into three socioeconomic groups, and comparing between students of similar socioeconomic backgrounds, cuts the gap in English scores between Hebrew- and Arabic-speaking students in about half. These gaps might be even smaller if students’ achievements were analyzed after dividing the socioeconomic groups more finely.
The share of those taking the matriculation exams in the Arab education stream is similar to that in the Hebrew stream, and the gap between the percentage of Jewish and Arab Israeli students who qualify for a matriculation certificate has narrowed from 17% in 2000 to 12% in 2015.
While there have been some improvements on the math, chemistry, and biology matriculation exams for Arab Israeli students, the success gaps are still large on the 5-unit level of the English matriculation exams: in the Hebrew education stream 58% pass the exams, and in the Arab education stream – 14%.
In contrast to the achievements mentioned above, the gaps between students in the two education streams have narrowed to a lesser degree on international exams, and in some cases have remained unchanged – even among students from similar socioeconomic backgrounds.
Gaps remained on the 2011 PIRLS exam (primary school) and on the 2015 PISA exam (high school), and did not narrow even when students were classified by socioeconomic background. However, the gap in math scores on the 2015 TIMSS exam (middle school) did become much smaller when taking socioeconomic background into account, which may show that at least some of the gap is rooted in the students’ socioeconomic profiles.
What can be done?
The fact that, for the most part, the gaps between the Arab and Hebrew education system appear to be smaller when comparing students of similar socioeconomic standing, shows that disparities in achievement between Jewish students and Arab Israeli students can be explained to a great extent by their socioeconomic backgrounds. To reduce this gap, it is important to focus more generally on addressing socioeconomic issues between the two sectors.
In recent years, more and more Haredim have been attending institutions of higher education. In the modern labor market higher levels of education are positively correlated with higher levels of employment, and a notable trend in Israel’s labor market is that the level of education has an even greater impact on wages today than in the past. When taken in tandem, this suggests that a continuation of the trend in Haredi enrollment in academic institutions could contribute significantly to reducing poverty within the Haredi community and closing gaps between Haredim and the general population, while at the same time serving as a source of growth for the Israeli economy at large. However, these results depend not only on Haredim studying in higher education, but also on their succeeding in those studies and completing their degrees.
The number of Haredim enrolling in higher education nearly tripled in six years. Between 2008 and 2014, the number of students rose from 1,122 to 3,227, of which about two-thirds are women and only a third are men. Despite this increase, the percentage of young Haredim (ages 25-35) who are studying or have studied for a bachelor’s degree is still substantially lower than in Israel’s other sectors: only 8% of Haredi men and 15% of Haredi women are pursuing or hold an academic degree.
Not only is the percentage of Haredim in academia relatively small, but it is actually overstated. This is due to the fact that National Religious students who studied in schools that are officially registered under Haredi supervision are included in this figure – despite the fact that they are not Haredim, do study core curriculum in high school, and behave quite differently from the mainstream Haredi population (i.e., the Hasidic, Sephardic, Lithuanian, or Chabad streams).
The trends in higher education spill over into the labor market, where Haredi men are one of two population segments (in addition to Arab Israeli women) in which employment rates, despite growing in recent years, are significantly below the rates of the other population groups.
It is important to note that this was not always the case. In the late 1970s employment rates among Haredi men were very similar to those among men in the general population, standing at about 84%, while employment rates among Haredi women stood at about 40%. Following various political and social developments, the “society of learners” emerged and employment rates changed dramatically as more men engaged in full-time religious learning in yeshivas. However, the economic circumstances faced by the younger Haredi generation today are more difficult than those faced by their parents – the first generation of the “society of learners.” There is no doubt that the need to make ends meet has driven recent changes in employment rates and higher education enrollment in the Haredi sector.
Among Haredi men enrolled in academic programs, the dropout rates are particularly high. About 58% of Haredi men pursuing an academic degree drop out either during their pre-academic preparatory program (mechina) or during the degree program itself. In other words, only about four out of every ten Haredim who pursue an academic degree end up completing their studies. In fact, when the National Religious students who attended Haredi supervised schools are removed from the equation, the dropout rate of Haredi male students rises to about 67%. This is much higher than the dropout rate among non-Haredi Jewish men (about 30%) and among Arab Israeli men (41%). It is also high in comparison to the dropout rate among Haredi women, which stands at about 33%.
There are a number of explanations for the notably high dropout rate among Haredi men. One of the main reasons is a lack of preparedness. The vast majority of male Haredi students do not learn core curriculum subjects – including math, English and sciences – during high school. In contrast, most Haredi women do learn core curriculum subjects in school as do the small group of National Religious students who attended Haredi supervised schools, and both of these groups have much lower dropout rates.
The lack of preparedness for higher education also stems from a more forgiving admissions policy, designed to ease Haredi students’ path to a degree. Over half of Haredim accepted to academic studies are accepted without a bagrut certificate (matriculation) or psychometric exam. Thus, some of the new academic institutions, and particularly the Haredi campuses, have lowered their admissions requirements in order to attract more students. However, it seems that the requirement of minimum bagrut and psychometric scores in most academic institutions is an effective screening tool, and reduces the likelihood of accepted students dropping out. Though there is also a high percentage of Haredi women who are admitted without a bagrut certificate or psychometric exam, this is misleading because a large portion of them take a set of exams similar to a partial bagrut, called the Szold Institute exams.
Another factor contributing to the high dropout rates is that male Haredi students begin their academic studies at a relatively late age (25 on average), when many are already parents of growing families. Haredi women tend to begin their studies earlier, at age 22, on average.
Improving the preparedness of Haredim to enter higher education – through formal curriculum, supplementary courses, or better preparation during pre-academic mechinot – and more financial and tutorial support for Haredi students during the course of their studies could help improve not only the enrollment rates, but also the success rates of Haredim in academia.
Irregular patterns of student progression from first to eighth grade – such as skipping grades, repeating grades, being dropped down to an earlier grade, or some combination of these patterns – are more commonly reported in certain streams of Israel’s education system than in others. In this study, Taub Center Principal researchers Prof. Alex Weinreb and Nachum Blass found that irregular patterns of progression are more common in the Haredi sector, and, in particular, in the Ma’ayan Hahinuch Hatorani education system, than in the Hebrew state, state-religious, or Arab education systems. The research looks comprehensively and methodically at data for students enrolled in grades 1 through 8 between 2001 and 2015.
In theory, irregular patterns in the education system are meant to answer individual educational needs for students who for various reasons did not complete a grade successfully or performed at a particularly high level and needed the challenge of a higher grade. However, when the reported rates of irregular patterns are very high, it may be an indication that these patterns reflect the school’s organizational and management needs rather than students’ individual educational needs.
Boys advance in irregular patterns at a higher rate than girls
In general, boys go through the system in a less standard fashion than girls. The likelihood of a boy repeating a grade, being put back in a previously completed grade or skipping to a higher grade is almost twice that of a girl. This is not so surprising given that previous research has shown that, in general, the share of boys among the population of those with special educational needs – both those with disciplinary and educational needs – is higher than the share of girls with special needs.
The highest rate of irregular patterns is in the Haredi educational sector
In the Hebrew state system there were the lowest rates of irregular patterns. In this stream, only about 5% of boys and 3% of girls repeated a grade and about 3.5% of boys and 2% of girls repeated and then skipped a grade.
In contrast, the most irregular advancement patterns were found in the Haredi educational system. About 20% of boys who began school in Exempt educational institutions (which has little if any oversight by the Ministry of Education) repeated a grade, and about 10% repeated and then skipped a grade. In the Haredi Recognized system (schools that are partially financed by the state with partial oversight, although they are not officially part of the state system) about 23% of students repeated a grade and about 14% repeated and then skipped a grade. In the Independent system, about 26% of boys repeated a grade and about 18% repeated and then skipped a grade. In the Ma’ayan Hahinuch Hatorani schools the highest rates of irregular advancement were found: about 38% of boys repeated a grade and about 25% repeated and then skipped a grade.*
In the Arab education system (including Bedouin and Druze) and in the Hebrew state-religious system, the share of boys with irregular advancement patterns is higher than in the state system and low relative to the Haredi system. About 10% repeated a grade and about 6% repeated and then skipped a grade.
Among girls, the rate of irregular advancement patterns is lower, although the highest share is still in the Haredi educational system. In the Haredi Recognized schools, about 13% of girls repeated a grade and about 9% repeated and then skipped a grade. In the Ma’ayan Hahinuch Hatorani schools, about 21% repeated a grade and about 15% repeated and then skipped a grade. In contrast, in the Independent schools – where most Haredi girls study – advancement patterns are most similar to those of girls in the Hebrew state-religious system and the Arab, Druze and Bedouin system: about 7% of girls repeated a grade and about 5% repeated and then skipped a grade.
Irregular advancement patterns have increased in the Haredi education system over time
In the Hebrew state schools, as well as the state-religious and Arab education systems, patterns in irregular advancement remained relatively stable for each age cohort studied. In contrast, in the Haredi sector, students born in 2000 had a 50% higher chance of being put back in a previously completed grade or repeating a grade than those born in 1995.
When taking all the different types of irregularities into account for each sector, the average student in the Hebrew state system takes 1.015 years to complete a grade and to advance to the next grade – lower than the 1.025 years it takes in state-religious schools and the 1.029 years in the Arab schools. In the Haredi education system it takes 1.05 years to complete a grade in the Independent and Exempt schools, 1.06 years in the Recognized but not official schools, and about 1.09 years in the Ma’ayan Hahinuch Hatorani schools.
What does it mean?
There are substantial differences in the share of students with irregular patterns of progression depending on the school sector and supervisory authority. While the most standard patterns are in the state school system, the most irregular patterns are found within the various Haredi schools. The uncommonly high irregularities in reporting seem to be anchored in different school systems’ administrative practices and indicate that some schools freely intervene in the reporting or practice of student advancement.
*Independent schools in the Haredi sector are generally affiliated with the Agudat Yisrael political party, whereas the Ma’ayan Hahinuch Hatorani schools are affiliated with the Shas political party.
In July, the Ministry of Education announced that a new subsidized after-school program will begin in the 2017-2018 school year to provide an extended educational framework for students in public preschools in the afternoons, while easing the financial burden on parents.
This development is the most recent in a process of reforms that has occurred in the wake of the 2011 social protests in Israel and the subsequent Trajtenberg Committee (the Committee for Socioeconomic Change headed by Professor Manuel Trajtenberg). A central issue in 2011 — termed the “stroller protest” — called attention to high parental spending on preschool, which burdened young families and had an impact on their financial and employment decisions.
The cost of preschool rose by 43% in real terms from 2003 to 2012, a rise unparalleled in the rest of the education system and far exceeding the increase in household income or spending. Public preschools – while cheaper than private ones – were still paid for by parents, subsidized for those from the lowest socioeconomic backgrounds.
For most of the state’s existence, the Compulsory Education Law provided public funding for children aged 5 and over, except for special cases. However, following the Trajtenberg Committee recommendations, the Knesset decided to extend this law to cover all 3-4-year-olds starting in the 2012-2013 school year. Practically, this means government coverage of public preschool program costs along with subsidies for many private preschool programs.
A recent study conducted by Taub Center researchers Kyrill Shraberman and Nachum Blass finds that, due to the increase in government spending on preschool education, the law resulted in a decline of 11.5% in the average parental payment for 3-4-year-olds specifically. However, at the same time, there was a slight increase in parental spending on daycare for 2-year-olds. This may be due, at least partially, to the fact that parents who previously had to pay for 3-4-year-olds’ education found themselves with more disposable income than in previous years, which could be used toward daycare for their 2-year-old brothers and sisters.
As a result, average household spending per child for all preschool-aged children (ages 2-5) fell by only 3% following implementation of the law. The researchers also found that the law resulted in increased preschool enrollment for 3-4-year-olds: from 80% to 89% among the Jewish population and from 68% to 79% in the Arab Israeli population within the first two years.
As can be seen in the graph below, the main beneficiaries from the universal implementation of the Compulsory Education Law for 3-4-year-olds were middle and upper class households, and not those in the two bottom consumption quintiles. This is because preschool subsidies were already in place for most lower-income families prior to the 2011 social protests as a part of the “long school day” program, which funded public preschool tuition for children in localities with low socioeconomic status.
To really evaluate the effectiveness of the law for those of different socioeconomic statuses, it is important to take into account the full-day cost of sending a child to a public or private preschool. On the one hand, public preschool costs are covered by the Compulsory Education Law, but, until now, the costs have only fully covered childcare until 2:00pm at the latest.
To enable children to remain in care after official hours, there are supervised public afternoon programs and after school clubs that are eligible for monthly subsidies up to 400 shekels, depending on the socioeconomic status of the parents. However, these subsidies cover only part of the total costs, and parents are expected to make additional payments for afternoon services if they plan to work full time or longer hours.
On the other hand, the vast majority of private institutions, though only partially subsidized by the Compulsory Education Law, provide service throughout the day, including the later afternoon.
This is another illustration of the way the universal implementation of the law primarily benefited middle and upper class households. For families sending their children to private preschool, the law led to a decline in full-day spending due to government subsidies for the earlier part of the day. In contrast, parents sending their children to public preschool still needed to arrange coverage for the afternoon hours if they planned to work after 2pm.
The average afternoon program spending increased by 45% between 2003 and 2014 among households with children aged 3-4 only, rising most notably between 2012 and 2014. The explanation seems to be that, due to subsidized preschool tuition in the morning, many more parents could afford to send children to afternoon programs.
This 45% increase also reflects increased full-time employment among young women, which creates a greater need for extended childcare coverage. Thus, the law enabled more parents of children to use money that would have gone towards preschool costs towards afternoon programs, but it did not necessarily reduce their overall full-day preschool spending burden.
The new subsidized after-school program, announced this past July, will cover public preschool and elementary school students from the end of the regular school day until 4:00pm and will include a hot meal, teacher supervision, and extracurricular activities. The goal of this measure is to extend childcare coverage for working parents and to ease the financial burden on full-day preschool costs.
It’s important to note that overall spending per student in preschool education relative to Israel’s GDP per capita has not changed significantly since the expansion of the Compulsory Education Law to cover 3-4 year olds. What has changed is the share of this total spending that is provided through private parental payments versus public government spending.
The public share of funding for preschool education grew from about 79% on average before 2011 to 92% in 2012-2013. Accordingly, the private share of funding, which stood at about 21% on average before 2011, dropped to 8% in 2012-2013.
Therefore, the overall cost burden has been falling less on parents and more on the State. The new subsidized after-school program was passed in recognition that, nonetheless, lower and middle income families in public preschools still need more assistance in paying for afternoon care programs.
What are the differences between the educational achievements of Arab Israeli and Jewish students in Israel?
Many educational research studies have explored this question in the past and pointed to disparities between the two sectors. However, Researcher Nachum Blass finds that there has been significant improvement in the achievements of Arab Israeli students in recent years and that the gaps between students in the Arab and Hebrew education systems have narrowed.
In particular, when comparing students of similar socioeconomic backgrounds, the achievements of students in the Arab education system have improved considerably over the years, approaching those of students in the Hebrew education system – and even surpassing them in some areas.
To compare the two streams, it is important to look both at resources allocated to each stream and at educational outcomes – that is, the achievements of the students.
Trends in resource allocation: budgets, teachers’ qualifications, and smaller classes
Despite disparities in budget per student and per class, the gaps in teacher quality and number of students per class have nearly closed between the two education streams.
Considerable disparities remain in budget per student in the Arab education system and the Hebrew education system. While NIS 20,000 was allocated per primary school student in the Hebrew education stream in 2015, only about NIS 16,000 was allocated for a primary school student in the Arab education stream in the same year. Nonetheless, the per student budget has increased more rapidly over time in Arab education than in Hebrew education.
In educational research, teachers’ qualifications are often indicated by teachers’ level of education. The share of teachers with an academic degree in the Arab education system actually exceeds the share in the Hebrew education system at every level of education. For example, 95% of teachers in early childhood education in the Arab education system have an academic degree versus 91% in Hebrew education. In addition, the share of teachers with a Master’s degree is growing and approaching that of teachers in Hebrew education, even though in post-primary education there are still notable gaps between the education streams in this regard.
Though the Ministry of Education’s efforts to reduce the size of classes did not bring about considerable change in the Hebrew education system, the results were more impressive in Arab education. By 2015, the number of students per class in Arab primary and middle schools was lower than in the Hebrew education system, and only in high school was it higher.
Trends in educational outcomes: enrollment, scholastic achievements, and international exams
More Arab Israeli students are enrolled in school and higher education, and their scholastic achievements have risen in a number of subjects. However, large scholastic achievements gaps remain between the streams, both on national and international exam scores.
Enrollment rates in Arab primary and middle schools have risen from 63% in 1990 to 93% in 2015, whereas there was already 90% enrollment in the Hebrew education stream in 1990, which has since increased to 97%. Particularly striking is the rise in enrollment among girls in the Arab education system: from 59% to 94% during this period. In addition, there was an increase in the percentage of Arab Israelis admitted to higher education institutions within Israel and in the share of all degree holders in Israel who are Arab Israeli. Despite this progress, it is important to note that in 2015 a much smaller percentage of Arab Israeli young adults (25-34) had more than 13 years of schooling than among Jews: only 36% as compared with 72%.
In terms of achievements, there was a substantial increase in math scores between 2007 and 2016 and a moderate increase in English scores among Arabic speakers on the fifth grade Meitzav exams, which narrowed the gaps between the two education streams in these subjects. On the eighth grade test the gap in scores narrowed in science and technology during the same period, but the gap in math scores increased, and the gap in English remained unchanged. Classifying students into three socioeconomic groups, and comparing between students of similar socioeconomic background, cuts the gap in English scores between Hebrew- and Arabic-speaking students in about half. These gaps might be even smaller if students’ achievements were analyzed after an even more nuanced division into ten socioeconomic groups.
The share of those taking the matriculation exams in the Arab education stream is similar to that in the Hebrew stream, and the gap between Jewish and Arab Israeli students in the percentage who qualify for a matriculation certificate out of those who took the exams has dropped from 17% in 2000 to 12% in 2015. While there have been some improvements on the math, chemistry, and biology matriculation exams for Arab Israeli students, the success gaps are still large on the 5-unit level of the English matriculation exams: in the Hebrew education stream 58% pass the exams, in the Arab education stream – 14%, and in the Druze stream – 25%.
In contrast to the achievements mentioned above, the gaps between students in the two education streams have narrowed to a lesser degree on international exams, and in some cases have remained unchanged – even among students from similar socioeconomic backgrounds. On the 2011 PIRLS exam (primary school), there was a correlation between stronger socioeconomic background and higher exam scores, and the gaps showing an advantage for Jewish students did not narrow when classifying students by socioeconomic groups. A similar relationship between exam scores and socioeconomic background is also found on the 2015 TIMSS exam (middle school) but, when comparing students of the same socioeconomic background, the gap between the average math score in each stream became much smaller. This may show that at least some of the gap in math scores between the two streams are rooted in the students’ socioeconomic backgrounds. On the 2015 PISA exam (high school), however, the overall gap between the streams mostly remains even when students were classified by socioeconomic background.
What can be done?
Despite the educational disparities between the Hebrew and Arab education systems in certain areas, the scholastic achievements of Arab Israeli students have greatly improved. The gaps appear to be even smaller when comparing students of similar socioeconomic standing, which shows that the large gap in achievement between Jewish students and Arab Israeli students can be explained to a great extent by their socioeconomic backgrounds. If we want to reduce this gap, we should focus more generally on addressing socioeconomic issues between the two sectors.
The end of the school year, and preparation for the start of the next, provide a timely opportunity to evaluate large education policy trends. In fact, it was at this same time of year a couple years ago that parents and students in Israel took to the streets in what was deemed the “sardines protest” to demonstrate against overcrowded classrooms in Israel’s education system.
As part of the protest, parents from all over the country sent cans of sardines to the office of Minister of Education MK Naftali Bennett, to illustrate how students were packed into Israeli classrooms the way sardines are packed into a can.
The campaign drew legitimacy from international data on class size and student achievements. Of the 34 countries that participated in the relevant OECD study, Israel placed fifth in terms of large class size, with an average of 27 students per primary school class and 32 students per middle school class. At the same time, a look at Israeli student achievements on the OECD’s international PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) exams, which test 15-year-olds in mathematics, reading and science, shows Israeli students to be in the lower half of the attainment ranking for all subjects tested.
It’s not a new phenomenon, nor one specific to Israel, that both parents and many teachers see smaller classes as a way to improve the achievements of students. Yet researchers Reut Shafrir, Yossi Shavit and Carmel Blank recently found that, when isolating class size from other factors that could influence student achievements – such as parental education levels and prior academic achievements – there is no notable relationship between class size and achievements in eighth grade.
The main challenge in trying to understand how class size affects student performance is that class placement is often not randomly determined, but rather reflects systemic educational considerations that themselves could potentially affect student achievements. For example, relatively low-achieving students are often placed in smaller classes from the start, in the hope that this will help improve their performance.
The study, which was published by the Taub Center, analyzes data on scores of students who took the Israeli Meitzav exams in language arts (Hebrew) in 2006 and 2009 as well as background data on these same students. In the initial analysis, the researchers found that there is actually a positive relationship between class size and achievements in Israel; the scores of students in large classes are seemingly higher than those of students in smaller classes.
However, when separating out parental education levels and prior achievements, the researchers found that the relationship between class size and achievements is not statistically significant in either direction. In this model, the greatest impact on a student’s Hebrew Meitzav exam score in Grade 8 is the score of the same student on the Grade 5 Hebrew Meitzav exam – that is to say, prior achievements. Higher levels of parental education were also found to be correlated with greater student achievements.
Earlier studies in other countries indicate that ethnic minorities and those belonging to lower socioeconomic strata are likely to benefit more from smaller classes than others. The researchers evaluate the hypothesis that the impact of class size on achievements varies between students of different socioeconomic backgrounds and between stronger and weaker students in Israel. Yet the hypotheses did not hold up: no difference in the relationship between class size and achievements was found among the groups.
There are two important caveats to the researchers’ findings on class size. First, the result refers to eighth-grade test scores only, and does not guarantee that the same is true for, say, first graders. Second, while grades might not depend on class size, the classroom experience could certainly be affected, a factor that may be no less important than academic outcomes.
Similarly, small classes could facilitate the use of teaching methods that may help students achieve – for example, individualized or small-group instruction – but it is unclear whether teachers working in small classes do, in fact, take advantage of the possibilities that such classes present. If teachers use forms of instruction similar to those commonly employed in large classes, they may effectively neutralize the small-class advantage.
Although the past ten years have been relatively good years for the education system, the prevailing feeling is that education, especially public education, is in crisis. The education system in Israel is mostly public, and is based on the Compulsory Education Law (enacted immediately upon the establishment of the state with amendments over time) and on the State Education Law (1953). The two laws are intended to ensure equal education, giving all of Israel’s children a common basis of knowledge and values, with funding and oversight by the state. This education is intended to teach contents determined and approved by the Ministry of Education, and in parallel to grant various communities — religious, national and cultural-ideological — the opportunity to preserve and strengthen their uniqueness.
This opinion piece appears in the Center’s annual publication, State of the Nation Report 2016, edited by Prof. Avi Weiss.
In recent years, there has been an impressive growth in the number of Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) students in higher education. Between 2008 and 2014 the number of Haredim newly enrolled in academic learning institutions nearly tripled: from 1,122 to 3,227. In 2014, approximately 1,600 Haredi women and 450 Haredi men successfully completed their academic studies – as compared with only 650 Haredi women and 200 Haredi men in 2012. Yet, despite the significant growth in Haredi students, the percentage of university graduates among Haredim (especially men) remains quite low. As of 2014, only about 2.5% of Haredi men and 8% of Haredi women among those aged 25-35 had an academic degree – as compared with 28% of secular men and 43% of secular women.
About 58% of ultra-Orthodox students drop out of their academic studies. Compared to the general population, a smaller percentage of Haredi students study at universities and a larger percentage study at academic colleges (primarily on Haredi campuses) and at the Open University, which has stringent academic requirements but enrollment that is open to all. Approximately 44% of Haredi dropouts studied in private colleges and roughly another 40% studied at the Open University.
The majority of Haredi students are accepted to higher education institutions without bagrut or psychometric exam scores – which is due not only to the fact that most study at academic colleges, but also to the fact that the admissions requirements are much easier at the Haredi campuses than for the overall student population. About 79% of Haredi students at academic colleges were accepted without bagrut or psychometric exam scores.
The fact that the majority of Haredi male students do not study core curriculum subjects in high school impacts their ability to complete an academic degree. Without a change in their basic education, it seems that their drop-out rates will remain high. Achievement among Haredim in English (as a second language) is particularly low; when comparing scores on the psychometric English section, a large gap was found between secular and Haredi students (20 points out of 100) compared with a 6-7 point gap for math and near equal performance on the Hebrew verbal section. However, academic preparatory (mechina) programs and adequate support during academic studies could improve Haredi students’ chances of success.
This paper appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication, State of the Nation Report 2016, edited by Prof. Avi Weiss.
The impact of class size on pupil achievement has been a matter of concern to education professionals for many years. Parents and teachers argue that large classes are detrimental to learning, but education researchers have yet to reach an unequivocal conclusion on the topic. The main challenge in assessing the relationship between class size and pupil performance is controlling for class placement, which is not random and could therefore potentially distort findings.
The present study looks at the topic in the Israeli context, through a hierarchical analysis of the scores of pupils who took the Israeli Meitzav exams in 2006 and 2009 using three models: a model containing only class size, a model controlling for background variables such as prior achievements and parental educational levels, and a model that also includes interaction variables aimed at determining whether class size has a different effect on pupils from populations with weaker educational abilities and lower socioeconomic status than pupils with high educational abilities from higher socioeconomic status.
The findings indicate that, when controlling statistically for parental education levels and prior attainments, the relationship between class size and achievement is not significant. Thus, small classes do not seem to enhance the achievement of their students. The hypothesis that the impact of class size on achievement varies between social strata and between stronger and weaker pupils was also refuted: no difference in the relationship between class size and achievement was found among the groups.
It is important to note that the study’s findings indicate that class size in and of itself does not ensure improved pupil achievement. Small classes could facilitate the use of teaching methods that may help students achieve – for example, individualized or small-group instruction. However, it is unclear whether teachers working in small classes do, in fact, take advantage of the possibilities that such classes present, including the teaching methods suited to them. They might be using forms of pedagogy similar to those commonly employed in large classes, and effectively neutralizing the small-class advantage.
This paper appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication, State of the Nation Report 2016, edited by Prof. Avi Weiss.
Israel’s education system is, for the most part, operated and funded by the state and local authorities through the State Education Law and the Compulsory Education Law. For most of the state’s existence, the laws applied to children aged 5 and over, except for special cases. However, in the 2012-2013 school year, the government decided on full implementation of the Compulsory Education Law for children aged 3-4, in keeping with the recommendations of the Trajtenberg Committee.
The rise in the number of 3-4-year-old children enrolled in public preschools and afternoon programs since the 2012-2013 school year, along with an overall decline in parental payments for preschool education, indicates that extending implementation of the Compulsory Education Law to absolute coverage of the entire relevant population has indeed benefited the target population, i.e. parents of 3-4-year-olds. However, parents working in a full-time job are still forced to finance a large share of their children’s activities in the afternoon hours (not included in the policy change), and these payments, to a large extent, offset most of the reduction in preschool tuition.
Furthermore, the law has had different effects on different population groups in Israel. Since its implementation, the burden of preschool expenditures increased for those in the middle quintiles to a greater extent than for those in the lowest (first) and highest (fifth) quintiles. Households of higher economic standing enjoyed most of the expenditure decline since less-affluent households already received government support before the full implementation of the law. Moreover, due to limited spots in public preschools or due to a rise in incomes, there was a surge in demand for private preschools in the periphery. This, in turn, increased the relative preschool expenditure burden for households in the periphery during the research period, nearly reaching the level of burden on households in central Israel. Although the expenditure burden is substantially lower among Arab Israeli households, the disparities have been shrinking since 2012, largely due to an expenditure burden reduction in the Jewish sector. The share of children in preschool in the Arab Israeli sector is lower (79% in the 2013-2014 school year) than in the Jewish sector (89% in the same school year).
It is important to note that implementation of the law was followed by reports of crowded preschool classes and questions regarding the quality of service relative to years past. However, beyond the impact that the law’s implementation may have at the household level, the researchers of the study add that the economy as a whole will benefit from the increase in preschool attendance which will ultimately lead to upgraded human capital in Israel.
Despite the rise in public expenditure on preschool education, the national resources allocated to preschool education, relative to GDP, did not change. This resulted in a rise in the public share at the expense of the private share, in financing preschool education.
This paper appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication, State of the Nation Report 2016, edited by Prof. Avi Weiss.
Twelve years have passed since the National Task Force for the Advancement of Education in Israel (the Dovrat Committee) submitted its recommendations to the government. In that time, the education system has gone through unprecedented change: the teacher’s unions have signed new agreements that changed their employment conditions and improved their salaries; the Ministry of Education’s budget has grown in absolute terms as well as in terms of budget per pupil; the National Authority for Measurement and Evaluation (RAMA) was established to monitor student achievements and the Israel Institute for School Leadership (“Avnei Rosha”) was established for enhanced training of school principals; and after a lengthy teachers’ strike, there has been slow movement toward reducing classroom size.
Not all of the committee’s recommendations were implemented – some were rejected or not carried out – yet , Blass found similarities and sometimes almost correspondence between the recommendations and real developments, albeit with a lag of several years. This does not necessarily indicate a direct and immediate causal relationship between the two.
Among the Dovrat Committee’s main recommendations related to teachers’ working conditions and training were: a substantial wage hike, a 36-40 hour work week, changes in the teacher promotion track, and improvement of the teacher training process. In actuality, real wages of teachers in Israel increased between 2005 and 2013 – by 26% for primary school teachers, 19% for middle school teachers, and 10% for high school teachers. Jewish primary school teachers increased their average work time from 75% of a full-time position to 78% while for Arab Israeli teachers it increased from 80% to 85%. Applications to teacher training institutions have increased in recent years, most notably among those applying for academic tracks, with an 81% rise in graduates as compared to 2009.
Between 2000 and 2016, the nominal Ministry of Education budget grew at an unprecedented rate of 142%, and the real budget by 86%. The number of pupils per full-time teacher position dropped from 13.8 in 2007 to 12.7 in 2014 – a 9 percent drop. Taking into account the growth in the number of teachers and average teaching hours, it is clear that the number of hours per pupil also rose – evidence of the increase of educational spending directly for pupils.
These changes have been reflected in improved pupil achievement on Meitzav exams and in Israel’s ranking in international exams, as well as higher satisfaction rates among teachers with their salaries and their status. In turn, there has been a rise in professionals seeking retraining in the field of education.
Developments in the education system need to be examined from a longterm perspective (of at least a decade), because the fruits of the efforts and resources that are invested in the system are often visible only after a period of many years. The last decade as a whole is replete with positive trends, but there remain many areas, primarily in terms of educational and social gaps that have not narrowed, which the education system must work hard to improve.
This introduction appears in the Center’s annual publication, State of the Nation Report 2016, edited by Prof. Avi Weiss.
This paper discusses the demographic developments that characterized Israel’s education system between 2000 and 2015, focusing on transfers between the various educational streams (based on individual tracking of the ideological affiliations of educational institutions that pupils attended over the years). The main findings are as follows:
A. During this period, there were changes in the growth patterns of the various educational streams. The growth rates of the Jewish state and state-religious educational streams, which were very slow in the early part of the period (the state educational stream actually contracted), accelerated substantially during the latter five years. By contrast, growth rates of the Arab Israeli and Haredi (Jewish ultra-Orthodox) streams, which were very rapid in the earlier part of the period, slowed significantly and in the Arab Israeli sector growth actually halted.
B. Parental choices based on school educational and ideological approaches are very stable during the years that their children spend in the education system – which means that, pupil transfers between educational streams are indicative of exceptional circumstances.
C. Although the amount of between stream transfers is small, their direction was observed to be overwhelmingly in the direction of more-religious to less-religious.
Since 1999, and even earlier, Israel has ranked among the lowest-performing developed countries on certain international exams, including TIMSS, PISA and PIRLS – exams that test a wide range of age-groups on a number of subjects over many years. Israel’s performance is low both in terms of average scores for all pupils and in terms of the gap between the strongest and weakest pupils. In other words, compared with other countries, a smaller percentage of Israeli pupils receive outstanding scores, and a larger percentage of Israeli pupils receive weak scores on these international exams.
Many are under the impression that there has been a deterioration in Israeli pupil performance on international exams since the beginning of the millennium, based on Israel’s international ranking. However, this conclusion ignores the fact that the countries listed and the number of countries ranked changes from test to test, affecting Israel’s relative status. Out of the 26 countries that have participated in all PISA exams, Israel ranks ninth in improvement in the rankings and fourth in improved pupil scores between 2000 and 2012, whereas other countries, including the U.S., have declined in these rankings. The picture regarding PIRLS is the same: Israel ranks fifth of 22 countries in terms of score improvement, and fourth for improved rank between 2001 and 2011. In a recent policy paper on international exams, Taub Center Principal Researcher Nachum Blass argues that, when evaluated alongside their peers in other countries, Israeli pupils’ performance on international exams has not worsened, but in fact has improved.
Blass claims that the expectation of better outcomes in international exams is, at its core, based on national pride and being “the people of the book.” However, in practice, examining variables that impact pupil achievement on such exams helps to explain Israel’s relatively poor, though improving, performance. These variables include class size, teacher salaries, and the country’s education budget (relative to GDP).
Classes in Israel are larger than the OECD average. As shown in the table below, the number of pupils in Israel’s primary school classes is significantly higher than in the comparison countries at 27.9 pupils. For middle schools, only Korea has a larger number of pupils per class. Much has been written about the relationship between class size and educational achievement. Even if a link has not been proven unequivocally, it seems clear that larger classes are harder on teachers, and that they lower the quality of the educational climate for pupils.
The research also shows that teachers in Israel are paid relatively low salaries. Salary is one of the most important factors in attracting and retaining high quality teachers. Yet teacher salaries in Israel, although significantly improved in recent years, are still low relative to the OECD average and relative to the salaries received by other academically-educated workers within Israel. In 2012, an inexperienced primary school teacher with a BA degree in Israel earned about 67% of the average salary of a teacher with similar characteristics in the OECD. With seniority the gap decreases slightly, with the salary level in Israel at 88% of a comparable teacher in the OECD. In lower secondary schools, the gap is even larger – 59% and 72%, respectively.
An additional criterion for examining international exam scores is Israel’s expenditure per pupil relative to per capita GDP. In 2011, the expenditure per preschool pupil relative to per capita GDP stood at 13%, versus 21% in the OECD. At the secondary school level, the expenditure per pupil was 19% versus 26% on average in the OECD. Only at the primary school level does Israel have a ratio that is similar to the OECD average – 23%.
There was a decrease in Israel’s preschool and secondary school per pupil expenditure relative to per capita GDP from 2005 to 2011 because, while expenditure for preschool and secondary education in Israel remained constant during this period, per capita GDP grew. For primary schools, however, expenditures did grow more relative to per capita GDP (likely due to the “New Horizon” wage agreements signed in 2008).
It is important to note that Israel has a much higher fertility rate than the OECD countries (3.0 vs. 1.7 children, on average). As such, it is more challenging for Israel to pay as much on education per child as OECD countries. While Israel made a substantial increase in its educational investment in the early 2000’s, the exceptionally large increase in its pupil population muted the effect of this increase when calculating per pupil expenditure.
Given the above conditions, there is no reason to expect Israeli pupils to perform better on international exams than they are currently performing. Regardless, the real question is whether or not education policy makers and opinion-shapers (in Israel and elsewhere) should attach great importance to the international exams, and especially to their country’s ranking. Do high scores on international exams predict a better economic future for the country in question?
The study finds that there is no proven link between a country’s past educational achievements and its current economic functioning. Thus, for example, the correlation between the achievements of a country’s pupils on the SIMS exam (which tests student performance in mathematics) in 1985 and the per capita GDP measured in 2010 was negative and close to zero (-0.09). The results support the notion that knowledge conveyed through the education system is just one of many components that affect the future economy. Additionally, international tests do not necessarily reflect the level of pupils’ knowledge.
Instead, Blass argues, greater weight should be given to other measures for assessing Israel’s educational success. Although other education systems have fared far better in international test scores, and despite all of its problems, the achievements of Israeli society in the fields of economics, culture and science (including Nobel Prize winners) indicate that it is doing quite well.
Graduates of Israel’s education system have registered a high number of patents relative to other countries, which also testifies to their originality and creativity. In 2008, Israel was ranked third in the world in the number of patents per billion dollars of GDP, and showed a large lead over those countries whose pupils scored higher on the 1985 SIMS tests. In the US, for example, whose score in 1985 was higher than Israel’s by a point and a half, only 1.12 patents per billion dollars of GDP were registered in 2008, while in Israel the number was 2.58.
Funding of education in Israel is divided between the central government, municipalities, households, and non-profit educational organizations. While the bulk of funding comes from the national Ministry of Education, which prioritizes – at least declaratively – affirmative action measures, funding from other sources sometimes contributes to and sometimes counters the affirmative action efforts of the Ministry.
A recent study, conducted by Taub Center Principal Researcher Nachum Blass, and by Noam Zussman and Shay Tsur from the Research Department at the Bank of Israel, explores the effect of municipal funding on affirmative action efforts by taking a closer look at funding for state (Jewish, non-religious) primary school education from the 2000-2001 school year through 2008-2009. The study measures funding from the municipality, the Ministry of Education, and other sources by comparing the number of weekly teacher working hours funded by each source.
Between 2000-2001 and 2008-2009, only about 11% of the total weekly teacher working hours in Israel were funded by a source other than the Ministry of Education. Of this 11%, or 6 weekly hours, non-profit organizations funded an average of 3.3 weekly hours per class, parents funded about 0.9 hours, and local municipalities funded about 2 hours.
Even though these other entities contribute a small amount of funding when compared with the Ministry of Education, the fact that funding comes from so many different sources can complicate the effect of the Ministry’s affirmative action policy.
When the funding by the Ministry of Education is isolated, as shown in the graph below, the Ministry’s efforts to implement affirmative action are quite apparent, both in wealthier and less wealthy municipalities. Within municipalities that fall into the mid-range or lower socioeconomic profile, the Ministry of Education allocates more money to schools with pupils of low socioeconomic backgrounds than to schools with pupils of mid-range socioeconomic backgrounds and, likewise, allocates more funding for schools with a mid-range socioeconomic ranking than for those with a high socioeconomic ranking.
Even in wealthier municipalities, in which there may be no schools that would be characterized as having a low socioeconomic ranking, the Ministry of Education provides more funding for the schools with a mid-range socioeconomic ranking than to those with a high socioeconomic ranking.
The graph also shows that the Ministry of Education allocates roughly the same amount of funding to schools with a mid-range socioeconomic ranking, regardless of whether they are located in less wealthy or wealthier municipalities. Similarly, the Ministry allocates roughly the same funding to schools of a high socioeconomic ranking, regardless of the municipality’s socioeconomic status.
In differentiating between funding from the Ministry of Education and the budget allocated by municipalities (as shown in the chart below), it is clear that municipality funding for education has two major effects on affirmative action.
On the one hand, municipalities with a high socioeconomic profile allocate much more funding to education than municipalities with a middle or lower socioeconomic profile. In fact, while the country-wide average for municipality funding is 4% of total working hours, the more affluent municipalities fund about 10% of working hours as opposed to 2% in weaker municipalities. When stronger municipalities allocate greater resources to education within their districts than weaker municipalities, it reduces the effect of the affirmative action policies of the central government.
On the other hand, the above graph also shows that wealthier municipalities themselves also take affirmative action steps within their districts, with municipalities investing more in schools with a mid-range rather than a high socioeconomic ranking. Nonetheless, the researchers find that the affirmative action implemented by the municipalities is less extensive than that of the Ministry of Education. For example, stronger municipalities allocate an average of 4 more weekly working hours to classes in schools with pupils from mid-range socioeconomic backgrounds than to those with pupils from higher socioeconomic backgrounds, while the Ministry of Education allocates an additional 8 hours for such schools.
Furthermore, the study shows that other sources of funding, non-profits and parents of pupils, have an opposite effect from one another on affirmative action policies, as seen in the graphs below. While non-profits take a clear stand on affirmative action – favoring weaker populations – the financial contribution of parents is mostly seen in schools where the population has greater financial means.
The study assesses the effect of the various funding sources on the extent of affirmative action in the education system. If only Ministry of Education funding is taken into account, pupils from low socioeconomic backgrounds would be allocated 32% more funding than pupils from high socioeconomic backgrounds. After taking into account the funding from municipalities, without considering non-profit or parental funding, the extent of affirmative action is reduced from 32% to 27%. Taking into account the net effect of funding from all sources, the net advantage for pupils from low socioeconomic backgrounds is 29%. Overall, the study concludes that education funding from municipalities and other sources lessens the effect of national affirmative action policies, but only to a small degree.
 Weekly teaching hours comprise between 75% to 80% of the total budget allocated to elementary schools in Israel.
The international exams administered by Israel’s education system, and the international rankings of pupil performance on these exams, have attracted considerable attention in Israel, particularly in recent years. This policy paper addresses two main questions: why do education policy makers and opinion-shapers (in Israel and elsewhere) attach such importance to the international exams, and especially to their country’s place in the average score rankings? And: is this attributed importance justified? A comprehensive, multi-variable comparison between Israel and the OECD countries indicates that, given Israel’s relatively low level of investment in education, there is no reason to expect higher achievements on the international exams. The paper also presents a variety of data attesting to the fact that high scores on international exams do not necessarily predict a better economic future for the country in question. The findings indicate that the importance attached to the exam results is excessive and stems from causes that are actually of little practical relevance; greater weight should be given to other measures for assessing the education system.
The recurring debate on vocational education in Israel showcases a deep ideological divide within the Israeli public. On the one hand, there are those who argue that vocational training directs weaker pupils away from preparation for the bagrut (Israel’s matriculation exam) and destines them to work in low paying jobs. On the other hand, some claim that vocational training equips its graduates with the skills needed to integrate into Israel’s workforce and earn a reasonable income. A new Taub Center study featured in the 2015 State of the Nation Report by Carmel Blank, Prof. Yossi Shavit (Principal Researcher and Chair of the Taub Center’s Educational Policy Program), and Prof. Meir Yaish explores the extent to which each of Israel’s four educational tracks ultimately affects drop-out rates and bagrut qualification rates.
Israel’s secondary education system consists of the following educational tracks: the academic track, intended to prepare pupils for academic studies; the engineering track, considered the “high” technological track, intended to prepare pupils for higher education in engineering, computer science or bio-technology; the technological track, which is designed to prepare pupils for technological fields of study or to be practical engineers or technicians; and the vocational track, considered the “low” technological track, designed to provide vocational training alongside academic courses. Each track prepares pupils for the bagrut exams, though the tracks have differing emphases and starkly different success rates.
Academic and engineering tracks tend to attract stronger pupils than the other two tracks. As shown in the series of figures below, more pupils in these tracks have educated parents, higher standardized test scores, and attend schools with higher socioeconomic statuses. In addition, the demographic profile of these tracks shows, most notably, that Arab Israelis are underrepresented in the academic and technological tracks, and girls are overrepresented in the vocational track.
These facts raise a very important question in gauging the extent to which track assignment is affected by pupils’ socioeconomic status – is it the socioeconomic factors themselves that affect the assignment to a certain educational track, or are other variables, such as prior scholastic achievement, responsible? That is, do pupils from stronger socioeconomic backgrounds show higher achievement in primary school, and on the basis of their higher achievements get assigned to more prestigious tracks? To address this question, Blank, Shavit and Yaish statistically controlled for prior scholastic achievement, along with a number of other potentially intervening variables and found little change in the results. Students in the academic and engineering tracks are more likely to come from stronger socioeconomic backgrounds while students from weaker socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to be in the technological and vocational tracks. This suggests that socioeconomic background is indeed directly related to track assignment.
In addition to the results supporting the link between a pupil’s socioeconomic background and the course of his or her studies, the study finds that pupils in the technological tracks perform more poorly on the matriculation exams than their counterparts in the academic and engineering tracks. The figure below shows that 70% and 82% of pupils in academic and engineering tracks, respectively, qualify for their bagrut certificate, as compared to a rate of about 53% for pupils in the technological track and 40% for those in the vocational track. Even after controlling for prior scholastic achievements and socioeconomic factors, the data show that the academic and engineering tracks better prepare their pupils for the bagrut exams. In fact, high school dropout rates among students in technological (5.5%) and vocational (5.2%) tracks are substantially higher than those in the academic (2.9%) and engineering (1.4%) tracks, demonstrating another barrier to matriculation in the less prestigious tracks.
This study finds that pupils from low socioeconomic backgrounds tend to enter the less prestigious educational tracks. These tracks are associated with lower rates of bagrut matriculation even after controlling for socioeconomic factors and prior scholastic achievement. The authors note, though, that there has been progress on certain issues in this realm compared to what was found in past research on the subject. For example, most of the pupils who transition between tracks switch from technological tracks to the academic track (i.e., pupils are increasing their preparation for and chances of matriculation). Additionally, the prestigious engineering track has a considerably high portion of Arab Israeli students, who make up 29.9% of the track, (compared to the proportion of Arab Israeli students, which stands at 24%). Despite the progress, there is still a strong relationship between socioeconomic background and educational track. Due to the substantial effect that educational track has on one’s chances of completing high school and receiving a diploma, pupils from weak socioeconomic backgrounds are disproportionately affected.
This paper examines the extent of municipal involvement in the funding of teaching hours in the Jewish state primary schools, and the affirmative action policy steps taken within municipalities. Between 2001 and 2009, the municipality’s financial share of teaching hours in the Jewish state primary schools was about 2 weekly hours per class, which is less than 4 percent of total hours and close to one-third of the hours funded by sources other than the Ministry of Education. The Ministry of Education and municipalities fund affirmative action teaching hours for pupils from low socioeconomic backgrounds. This municipal funding has reduced the extent of affirmative action provided by the Ministry of Education by 5 percent from 32 percent to about 27 percent. The reason is that municipalities that are stronger in terms of their socioeconomic characteristics allocated greater resources to primary schools than weaker municipalities did, even though stronger municipalities adopted affirmative action policies in favor of pupils from weaker backgrounds There is a positive correlation between a municipality’s fiscal state and its investment in Jewish state primary education when other variables are held constant: every increase of 1 percent in the average revenue from residents correlates with an increase of 1.2 percent in educational investment (elasticity of 1.2) and the elasticity relative to the level of debt per resident (in absolute terms) is -0.4. Municipal affirmative action is positively correlated with the municipality’s socioeconomic ranking and its fiscal state.
The debate in Israel over the role of educational tracking and particularly technological/vocational education is related to socioeconomic and ethnic gaps as well as to educational and employment achievement. Despite the public discourse, discussions rely on research from the past that is not necessarily relevant to today’s system. This chapter intends to fill in some of those gaps and has as its base three empirical questions. (1) What are the factors that affect a pupil’s assignment to the various educational tracks in secondary school? (2) To what extent do pupils change educational tracks? (3) Does the educational track affect a pupil’s likelihood of finishing secondary school and qualifying for a bagrut (matriculation certificate)? The findings show that despite changes in technological/vocational education, socioeconomic factors still relate to tracking assignments, even when the effects of previous pupil achievement are controlled. Mobility between tracks is quite low and the educational track affects chances of completing secondary school and attaining bagrut qualification. Changes over time were also identified. First, bagrut qualification rates have increased substantially in all tracks. Second, the main transfers between tracks today are from technological to academic tracks, which are considered more prestigious. Third, while in the past most Arab Israeli secondary school pupils were in the academic track, today more than half of them are learning in the technological tracks – with many pupils in the engineering track where the bagrut qualification rates are the highest.
This paper appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication, State of the Nation Report 2015, Dov Chernichovsky and Avi Weiss (editors).
Each generation embodies its own attributes, values, standards, and work ethic. Generation Y, known as the millennials generation, is composed of individuals born in the 1980s and early 1990s. Millennials indeed have a uniquely perceived image throughout the world, and many leaders of recent social protest movements have emerged from among this generation. The protests on socioeconomic issues in Israel, which began in the summer of 2011, were largely initiated by these young adults. The discontent ranged from issues about the price of housing to the price of cottage cheese.
Both external and internal factors influenced the situation of young adults. The external factors include those economic conditions that prompted the social protests, such as the challenges that many young adults face due to the rise in housing prices. The internal factors relate to the modern characteristics of young adults; Generation Y is often accused of being more spoiled than previous generations, with an attitude of self-absorption, lack of industriousness, and a spirit of pampering that affects their moral and professional code. A new study by Taub Center researcher Hadas Fuchs examines the social and economic conditions of young adults in the realms of higher education, employment, and housing, ultimately seeking to determine whether these perceptions are supported by the data.
One of Fuchs’ major findings is that Generation Y is more educated than the preceding generation. Over the last two decades, the share of students among the 18-34 year-old population has increased from 9% in 1995 to 15% in 2011. The majority of this increase comes from students enrolled in academic colleges rather than universities. In 2014, 96,000 students were enrolled in colleges and 65,000 students were enrolled in universities. In both the Arab Israeli population and the Jewish population there are more women than men with academic degrees. Young adults, particularly men, are both beginning their higher education and entering the labor force at a later age than in the past. These findings can likely be attributed to cultural or internal factors, such as the rise in popularity of traveling abroad after army service.
Even more than in the past, a high share of Jewish students, 65%, work while pursuing their degree, predominantly in part-time jobs. Between 1995 and 2011, employment rates among Jewish students rose as students progressed in their studies. Students are, however, mainly employed in clerical, sales, and service jobs with only a small share employed in occupations requiring post-secondary education. As such, students often do not gain relevant work experience during the course of their studies.
Following their studies, educated individuals aged 31 to 34 have similar rates of employment and work in similar occupations as educated individuals ages 35-54. Nonetheless, as the first figure shows, there has been a decline in the real hourly wage for this group between 2004 and 2011. There are a number of potential explanations for this decline in wage. The delay of young adults in beginning their studies could lead them to have lower seniority – i.e., fewer years of experience – by the time they are in their early thirties. Additionally, the substantially higher rate of students pursuing an academic degree leads to a rise in supply of educated young adults. It may be that there is no parallel rise in demand for those with academic degrees, which could also account for the decline in real wages, as Taub Center research shows.
Following their mandatory military service, many young adults continue to live in their parents’ homes. As the second figure shows, since 2005, there has been a substantial increase in both single and married individuals aged 22 to 28 living with their parents. In addition, the delay in marriage age results in an additional increase in the overall share of those living with their parents. The trend may also be related to a change in housing prices, since the rise in young adults living at home corresponds to the sharp rise in housing prices in 2005, as well as to the delayed entry of many young adults into the labor market.
The study finds that young married couples are also facing increasing obstacles to home ownership. Between 2003 and 2014, the share of married couples aged 25 to 30 living in a home that they own declined by 19 percentage points and stood at only 44%.This decrease aligns with the delay in initiating studies, and began prior to the sharp rise in housing prices. In the same years, young couples in the 31 to 34-year-old age group who live in a home that they owned declined by 12 percentage points and stood at 60% in 2011. For this group, most of the decline occurred after the rise in housing prices began.
In examining the situation of Israel’s young adults in the areas of higher education, employment and housing relative to the past, it is evident that since the 1990s there have been changes both in social norms and in the labor market. An overall delay was found in the initiation of independent adult living, which is reflected in the more advanced age for starting academic studies and entry into the labor market, in the later age for marriage and childbearing and in lower rates of homeownership among young adults. Despite these lags, by their early thirties most young adults conclude their studies (even those who have pursued higher education), successfully find employment, and leave their parents’ homes. Nonetheless, the research indicates that both social norms and external economic factors are associated with increased difficulty for young people in transitioning into adulthood.
As early as the 1960s, the struggle for equality and narrowing gaps in the education system has been one of the most widely discussed subjects in Israeli educational discourse. In recent years, the Ministry of Education has had to contend with issues that have had a direct or indirect impact on the realization of equality in education, and in all cases it has chosen to address them in ways that reflect a tendency to cancel, reduce or slow down equality-promoting policies that had been pursued in previous administrations. This chapter examines these developments and their consequences as test cases of the system’s willingness to actually invest in reducing educational gaps. The measures that will be reviewed in this chapter are: (1) the return to the weighted pupil formula in primary and lower secondary schools; (2) implementation of the Compulsory Education Law for Ages 3-4 and the decision to add a second assistant in the preschools for these children; (3) implementation of the government decision to reduce class size; (4) the toughening of budgetary policy towards the recognized but unofficial schools, as reflected in the conflict involving the Hebrew Reali School in Haifa and the Christian schools.
This paper appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication, State of the Nation Report 2015, Dov Chernichovsky and Avi Weiss (editors).
A few months ago, widespread protests among the Ethiopian-Israeli community arose, resulting from feelings of discrimination and oppression within the community. Following the protests, Taub Center researchers Hadas Fuchs and Gilad Brand examined the education and employment characteristics of this population. In order to identify trends with regard to integration, the research distinguished between Ethiopian Israelis born in Israel (or who immigrated at or before the age of 12) and those who arrived at an older age. The findings showed that young Ethiopian Israelis raised in the country are catching up to the general Jewish population, although gaps between the two groups are still evident. In general, the Ethiopian Israeli population is characterized by levels of education that are lower than those of the rest of the Jewish population. In 2012, the share of those qualifying for bagrut (matriculation certification) reached 54% among those Ethiopian Israelis who took the tests, compared to 73% among all those tested in the Jewish education system. Among those who qualified for bagrut, the share with a score high enough for acceptance to university was 56% among Ethiopian Israelis compared to 84% among the general Jewish population. The education gaps are also evident when looking at the share of academic degree holders in the population. The first figure shows that among Ethiopian Israelis who were born in Israel or who immigrated to Israel at a young age, the share of those with higher education is approximately 20%. This rate represents a substantial improvement from those Ethiopian Israelis who immigrated after age 12 (about 6%) and a higher rate than that found in the Arab Israeli sector. Nevertheless, it is still low compared to the rest of the Jewish population, where the rate is about 40%.
According to Fuchs and Brand’s research, educational gaps between Ethiopian and non-Ethiopian Jews manifest themselves in the labor market. 62% of Ethiopian Israelis who immigrated over the age of 12 are in occupations characterized by low skill levels, compared to 44% among the rest of the Jewish population. Only about 5% of those who immigrated to Israel at a later age are employed in occupations that require a high skill level, compared to 33% among the rest of the Jewish population (including managers). As the second figure shows, a relatively high share of Ethiopian Israelis who immigrated to Israel at a later age – about half of employed women and 17% of employed men –work as cleaning or kitchen workers. In contrast, the rate among Ethiopian Israelis educated in Israel is similar to the rate among the rest of the population (3.9%). Furthermore, the likelihood of being employed in cleaning and kitchen services is highly dependent on the number of years lived in Israel and an individual’s age of emigration from Ethiopia. As the number of years in Israel decreases and the age of immigration to Israel increases (up to age 20, after which the effect is no longer significant), the probability of working in cleaning and kitchen services is greater.
Examining the cohort of 30-35-year-olds shows that Ethiopian Israelis educated in Israel are better off relative to those who immigrated at a later age, even though they still lag behind the rest of the Jewish population. About 21% of Ethiopian Israelis who were educated in the country are in high-skilled occupations compared to 40% of the non-Ethiopian Jewish population. About 60% of Ethiopian Israelis educated in Israel are in low or unskilled occupations, compared to 41% among the rest of the Jewish population. One of the claims regarding the employment challenges of this population is that there exists discrimination in the labor market. It is likely, however, that the lower education level and the lack of needed skills make it difficult for Ethiopian Israelis to effectively integrate into the modern labor market. In order to further understand the effect of education, the occupational distribution of the population among those with an academic degree was examined. As shown in the third figure, among those with an academic degree, there is no substantial difference between Ethiopian Israelis and the rest of the Jewish population except for a low share of managers among Ethiopian Israelis. In other words, Ethiopian Israelis with academic degrees generally integrate effectively into those occupations requiring a higher education. Nevertheless, examining the wages of Ethiopian Israelis with an academic degree shows that although they integrate into high-level occupations, their incomes are low relative to others in the same employment category. These gaps are apparently due to the concentration of Ethiopian Israelis with higher education into occupations that pay relatively less. Specifically, many Ethiopian Israeli degree holders in high-skilled occupations work in the welfare services and teaching fields, which are relatively low-paying professions. This finding suggests that this population might have less access to academic majors that are considered more prestigious and that lead to higher wages.
The overall picture from the Taub Center research is positive: Ethiopian Israelis raised in Israel are substantially narrowing the wide gaps in education and employment that exist between those immigrated from Ethiopia at a later age and the general Jewish population. Nevertheless, attention should be paid to the differences between Ethiopian Israelis raised in Israel and Israelis of other origins, especially among those with higher education. As Fuchs and Brand have found, an academic degree, in and of itself, is not sufficient to narrow gaps. This finding supports the importance of modern, high-quality education (with an emphasis on access to various fields of study and prestigious employment opportunities) in ensuring proper integration into and advancement within the labor market.
Differences between these budgets make planning extremely difficult and point to a lack of transparency in the planning and budgeting process. The main difficulties are in understanding the rationale for the frequent and large budget changes throughout the year. To some extent, these changes serve to turn the budget approved by the Knesset into a meaningless document.
Math is seen by many as the most important subject that is learned for the bagrut (matriculation) exams, although it has the reputation of being both difficult and intimidating. Over the past decade, there has been a substantial drop in the number of pupils who choose to take the math bagrut exams at the higher 4 or 5 level (although in the past year there was a slight rise in these rates). The Ministry of Education has decided to start a national campaign to increase the rate of those studying math at the higher levels. Does learning high level math have any importance later in life for these pupils?
In order to answer this question, Prof. Ayal Kimhi and Arik Horovitz, in a study for the Taub Center (funded jointly by the Trump Foundation) checked to see the influence of higher level math study on labor force achievement and in particular, its impact on wages. The special data base that was built for the purposes of this study allowed the researchers to track a sample of examinees from their bagrut tests, through higher education, if they continued onto it – and if so, in what major – and into the characteristics of their early career choices (through age 29).
Not surprisingly, the research found that pupils who studied the highest level of math continued on to academic studies at a higher rate than those who studied at a lower level math or who did not take the math bagrut exam at all (90% of those who studied 5 units continued on to academic studies compared to 76% of those who took 4 units, 50% of those who took 3 units, and just 16% of those who did not take the math bagrut exam). A correlation was also found between the number of math units studied and the academic major. Those who took the bagrut at 5 units tended to enter the sciences like computer science, engineering and the exact sciences while a higher rate of those who studied at the 3 or 4 unit level went into the humanities, arts and social sciences.
This could explain the findings shown in the first figure. As the number of math bagrut units increases, occupational status tends to be more prestigious. The rate of those with an academic occupation rose gradually from 4% among examinees who studied 3 units or less to 49% among those who studied 5 units. In addition, the rate of those employed as associate professionals and technicians among those who studied at at least the 3 unit level was double the number of those who studied at a lower level or who did not take the math bagrut exam at all. In contrast, the number of skilled workers, who on average earn much less than associate professionals and technicians, is much lower among those who studied at least 3 units of math.
According to the Taub Center study, math study also has a substantial influence on the wage level within an occupation group. The findings presented in the table show clearly that pupils who took higher level math for their bagrut exams earned higher wages than those taking 3 units or less or who did not take the exam, even when they later were in the same occupation group. For example, agents and sales and service workers who took 3 units earned on average NIS 50 per hour while those who took 5 units earned NIS 74 per hour.
In addition, the study found that as the level of math increases, income in the labor market also increases. Nevertheless, in regression analyses that controlled for other variables that are likely to influence salary (like field of study and industry branch, socioeconomic variables and other bagrut scores, which are indicative of cognitive and learning abilities) it was found that the direct influence of level of math study on wages weakens as more variables are added – although it still reaches almost 10%.
In order to measure more accurately the impact of math study on wages, several hypothetical scenarios were examined. In the first, the level of math study of those who studied 4 units was increased to 5 units. The result of this hypothetical scenario showed that, by raising the level of math study, hourly wage rose by 8%. The direct effect of level of math study was 5% while the indirect effect (that is, the effect by way of the academic major selected) was 3%. The results differ somewhat for men and women; the move from 4 to 5 units increased wages of men by an average of 5% and the wages of women by an average of 13%.
In the second scenario, math study was increased from 4 to 5 units but the math score was reduced by 20 points; that means that hypothetically, if at 4 units of study the score was 90, at 5 units of study the score was reduced to 70. Results of this analysis showed that the lower score decreases the positive influence of the higher level of math on wages, although it does not negate it completely – the average increase in wages in this case is 7% (as opposed to 8% in the previous scenario). In this scenario as well, the influence was greater for women than for men.
The main conclusion from the Taub Center study is that the level of math study has a great deal of importance for income, and the academic major plays a critical role in this. Studying math at a higher level allows pupils to enter academic majors that are considered prestigious like engineering and computer sciences and in turn, these studies help them find quality employment and earn higher wages. As the results show, the influence is particularly high among women.
According to the researchers, in order to encourage more pupils to reach the higher levels of math (5 units), math study has to be made more attractive and the quality of teaching has to be improved. In addition, they recommended increasing the understanding of the importance of learning math among pupils and their parents. The implementation of these findings could increase the number of pupils taking higher level math and in this way, benefit pupils by enabling them to reach higher labor force achievements. The academic and high-tech fields would also benefit from a skilled and talented labor force, and ultimately, this would benefit the country as a whole.
The education level of those who came to Israel at an older age is low. Though their employment rate is high, many work in low paying and relatively low-status occupations.
The status of Ethiopian Israelis who grew up and were educated in Israel is better and their education is improving. Nevertheless, labor market integration is slower than among their peers who are not of Ethiopian origins.
The State budget, and in particular the Ministry of Education budget, expresses the priorities of the government in allocating available resources. The policy paper “The Ministry of Education Budget 2000-2014: Trends and Issues,” by Nachum Blass and Yulia Cogan of the Taub Center, examined the developments in the Ministry of Education budget between the years 2000 and 2014, with an emphasis on the utilization of the budget and how it reflects those priorities.
The authors examined the size of the Ministry of Education’s budget, looking at measures such as the budget level relative to per capita GDP and relative to expenditure in other OECD countries. The study found that during the period in question, the Ministry of Education budget grew in absolute terms; over the course of 2000-2012, the implemented budget (that is, the final amount that was actually spent on education) grew by 45%. Taking into consideration the increase in the number of pupils over this same period (24%), the extent of the rise is less impressive, although the positive trend is clear.
In contrast, when the budget per pupil is examined relative to per capita GDP, somewhat different trends are found, as can be seen in the first figure. Generally speaking, until 2006, the per pupil budget relative to per capita GDP declined, while thereafter, it remained stable with a slight rise.
An international comparison also confirms that the rise in the Ministry of Education budget is not enough to close Israel’s gap relative to other countries. The second figure shows clearly that the OECD countries place greater importance on education at every educational level. It is also apparent that the expenditure gap between Israel and the OECD on preschool education and secondary education grew over the research period, and during this same time, the trend in primary education expenditure flipped from a positive gap (being in Israel’s favor) to a negative one.
Nonetheless, since the implementation of the Ofek Hadash [New Horizon] teacher wage agreements began in primary schools in 2008, there has been a significant change. The rate of per pupil expenditure rose rapidly, while per pupil expenditure in the OECD countries stagnated and even declined slightly. In light of the fact that the effects of the Oz LeTmura [Courage to Change] wage agreement with secondary school teachers will only be seen in the 2012-2015 data, and that the full implementation of the Compulsory Education Law for Ages 3-4 will only take place within the next few years, it seems likely that the current trend towards improvement will continue and strengthen.
Another important subject that was examined in the Taub Center research was the transparency of the education budget. When looking at the budget, it is customary to distinguish between three budget types: the original budget – the one that is approved by the Knesset and is accurate as of January 1 of each year; the amended budget – which is the budget following additions and changes approved by the Knesset Budget Committee; and the implemented budget – the budget that was actually utilized by December 31 of a given budget year.
Utilization of the budget during the examined period was an average of about 102% of the original budget but only about 96% of the amended budget. On the surface, this seems very impressive, especially relative to the original budget. In shekel terms, however, the significance is that in the 2012 budget, for instance, the Ministry of Education neglected to use some NIS 1.34 billion of its budget. As can be seen in the third figure, the differences between the three budget types remain fairly constant over the years.
Numerous items within the Ministry of Education budget were reviewed in detail in this study, and in each one, substantial differences were found between the original budget and the implemented budget. So, for instance, there is a budget line called “Reducing the number of pupils per class.” Between 2009 and 2011, NIS 218 million was budgeted for this purpose. Nevertheless, in the final implemented budget, the item is listed as NIS 0. Whether or not there was ever any actual intention to use the funds for their stated purpose, it is clear that this budget line and many others were not in fact utilized for the purposes laid out in the original budget. Quite unfortunately, the public may never know the fate of these funds.
In summary, Blass and Cogan conclude that the Ministry of Education budget is not transparent to the public, primarily due to differences between the various budget types. These differences, as well as the many transfers between budget items – and in particular, between the many unspecified, reserve items – make it very difficult to track the actual utilization of the budget. In fact, they make it impossible for the engaged public to check if the Ministry is indeed standing by its obligations and carrying out its declared programs.
The study found that employment was higher among those who took a bagrut [matriculation] exam of at least 3 units of math than among those who were tested at a lower level or did not take the bagrut exams at all, although there were no employment gaps between those who studied 3, 4 or 5 units of math. In contrast, there were substantial income gaps between each level of math study. Most of the difference was indirect: learning higher level math leads to choosing more rigorous academic studies, which, in turn, leads to employment at a higher wage level. In addition, studying 5 units of math is also positively and directly related to income (that is, through statistical analysis controlling for certain variables), particularly among women. A theoretical scenario analysis showed that moving a student from 4 to 5 units of math study is expected to increase wages by 10% – 6% of which is the direct effect and 4% is due to increased income from the fields of study typical for someone who learned 5 units of math (primarily computer sciences). Level of math study affects the choice of field of academic study more for women than for men, and women’s wages are also more impacted by their level of study. In order to encourage higher level math studies, there must be an improvement in the teaching level as well as a higher awareness of the importance of math studies among pupils and their families. Consideration should even be given to incentivizing the schools to teach higher level math to more pupils.
A substantial share of Israel’s economic success and prestige in the international arena can be attributed to the deep knowledge base and new inventions arising from within this small country. Israel’s universities have played a key role in developing cutting-edge research, placing the country among the world leaders in making new discoveries and publishing seminal research findings. However, Prof. Dan Ben David’s findings show that Israel’s national priorities with regards to investment in its research universities exhibited a complete turnaround in the 1970s. According to the study, in contrast to the common perception that the first decade of the 2000s was a “lost decade” for higher education in the country, the long-term trend regarding Israel’s research universities has actually remained quite steady since the turnaround forty years ago.
The twenty-five years between Israel’s independence in 1948 and the Yom Kippur War in 1973 were both formative and challenging for the new country. Refugees and immigrants from European and Arab countries arrived to Israel with few resources to their name. Several wars erupted during this period and food was rationed during the 1950s, while Israel’s infant economy lagged well behind that of developed countries. Nonetheless, by the time of the Yom Kippur War, Israel had seven research universities, staffed by a rapidly growing number – both in absolute terms as well as relative to population size – of senior faculty members. At their peak in the early 1970s, Israel’s universities enjoyed a supply of senior faculty members per capita similar to that of the United States.
Everything has changed since then. The dwindling supply of senior faculty members is representative of the seriousness of this problem. While there were 131 senior faculty members per 100,000 people in 1973, this number had fallen 53 percent by 2010, to only 62 senior faculty members. For comparison, the number of senior faculty members per capita in the U.S. actually increased over the years.
Israel’s population grew quickly (133 percent) between 1973 and 2010. As a larger share of the country’s population chose to pursue higher education, the student population in Israel’s research universities grew even faster, at 157 percent during these 37 years. In contrast, the number of senior faculty positions in Israel’s research universities grew by a paltry 9 percent during the same time period.
Israel’s flagship universities actually had fewer faculty members in 2010 than they had in 1973. Specifically, Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University had 17 and 26 percent fewer senior faculty positions, respectively, in 2010 than they did in 1973. The world-renowned Technion, an institution greatly responsible for Israel’s high tech revolution and success in this realm, also lost 26 percent of its faculty positions in the years between 1973 and 2010.
Over the last few decades, Israel’s higher education policies have changed considerably. While research universities were deprioritized, the 1990s saw major growth in the development of lower-cost non-research academic colleges, with the aim of increasing accessibility to higher education for a greater share of the country’s population. The emphasis on expanding access via academic colleges was not accompanied, however, by a similar investment in faculty at these institutions. When including both universities and colleges in the analyses, Ben-David’s findings show that Israel’s higher education student population increased by 428 percent, while the total number of senior faculty rose by just 40 percent.
While the creation of academic colleges has been important in enabling more people to attain a higher education, the trend towards promoting education in academic colleges rather than universities has a couple negative ramifications. First, there is concern about the quality of education provided by faculty members who themselves are not actively engaged in the latest research. Second, the growing lack of tenure and tenure-track positions may discourage talented individuals from pursuing a research path, either in Israel or altogether.
In recent years, there has been growing recognition of the threats facing Israel’s major universities. In order to address these threats, the government has developed a program of “excellence centers” designed to attract top Israeli researchers. These centers are characterized by greater freedom with regards to compensation levels and reduced teaching requirements for researchers. However, if Israel wants to continue enjoying the economic and social benefits of producing world-class knowledge and research, along with intelligent and capable graduates, it must revisit its support for universities. This calls for a re-evaluation of national priorities towards greater investment in universities, and particularly for increasing the number of senior faculty positions.
Within Israeli society, a large debate has ensued about how to better integrate the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) into Israel’s labor market and modern economy. To shed light on this issue, Taub Center researcher Eitan Regev explored trends in education and employment among the Haredim. Regev found a substantial decline in both high school and higher education rates among Haredim over time, with the older generation of Haredim more likely to have an academic degree than the younger generation. This is in marked contrast to growing rates of higher education among every other segment of Israeli society, including non-Haredi Jews, Muslims and Druze, and Christian Arab Israelis. Haredi education, particularly for men, is increasingly characterized by fewer years of formal education, with the number of Haredi men of prime working ages 35-54 having no more than a primary school education rising from under one-third to nearly half over the last decade alone.
What do these declining educational qualifications mean for Haredim when it comes to their integration into Israeli economy? How does the decision to attend a small yeshiva starting after eighth grade, rather than continue with formal education, impact a Haredi boy’s prospects for future employment and his earnings potential? Regev’s research addresses both issues.
Both Haredi men and women are much more likely to be employed if they hold an academic degree. As shown in the first figure, while only about a third of Haredi men ages 25-64 without an academic degree are employed, the employment rate doubles to 71 percent for Haredi men with an academic degree. Such a gap, although smaller, also exists among Haredi women. While only half of Haredi women without an academic degree are employed, the figure jumps to 76 percent among those with an academic degree. Across various cities with large Haredi populations (Ashdod, Beit Shemesh, Beitar Illit, Bnei Brak, El’ad, Jerusalem, and Modi’in Illit,) large employment gaps exist between Haredim with a higher education and those without.
Within Haredi society, it is common that women play the role of primary wage earner. Consequently, employment rates of Haredi women surpass those of men. Most Haredi girls receive a secondary education while the vast majority of Haredi boys continue in religious studies only – at the expense of any further formal education beyond primary school. As such, even among those without an academic degree in the Haredi community, women are likely to have a higher level of formal education than men and are thus better able to integrate into the labor market – with a 16 percentage-point employment advantage versus Haredi men. Among Haredim with an academic degree, the gap between the respective employment rates of men and women shrinks to five percentage points, in favor of women.
The role of education transcends beyond the ability to find work, and has a substantial impact on types of jobs available to the individual and the compensation earned. As is common for other population groups, wages for Haredim with an academic degree are much higher than for those without. As shown in the second figure, among Haredi men ages 25-64 who are employed full-time, the average monthly wage of those with a higher education is about 80 percent greater than for those without an academic degree. Haredi women with higher education enjoy wages that are 71 percent higher than their less educated counterparts. Wage gaps between Haredim with and without an academic degree are evident across the cities with large Haredi populations, with the largest gaps evident in Bnei Brak (105 percent for men; 102 percent for women) and Beit Shemesh (100 percent for men; 81 percent for women).
Not surprisingly, the wage and employment gaps between those with and without an academic degree have an impact on overall household income, which is affected by the education levels of both the husband and wife. In 80 percent of Haredi households, neither the wife nor husband has an academic degree. These households have income that is 62 percent lower than those in which only the wife has an academic degree and 88 percent lower than those in which only the husband has an academic degree. In only five percent of Haredi households, both the wife and husband have higher education – and such households enjoy income that is 157 percent higher than those households with no academic degree holders (18,943 NIS per month versus 7,382 NIS per month). Sufficient household income from labor is critical to help ensure a decent standard of living for large Haredi families and to prevent households from falling under the poverty line.
Regev’s findings on the labor market impact of high school and higher education are important as they provide guidance on policies and programs to improve labor market outcomes and address the high poverty rates among the Haredim.
The professional education qualifications of teachers have improved, and the great majority of them now have higher education. The learning achievements of Israel’s pupils have also improved, as is evident from the results of the Meitzav tests, matriculation exams and international testing. Furthermore, the achievement gaps between pupil populations have narrowed, including those between Jewish and Arab Israeli pupils. Improvement is also evident in the educational environment of schools. Despite these changes, the financial allocation per pupil in Israel is still low relative to the OECD countries, and despite the narrowing of gaps between various population groups, they remain among the largest of the OECD countries. There is still a long way to go until the quality of what the education system provides to its pupils and until pupil achievement, in both learning and educational terms, meet the standards of the countries that Israel seeks to emulate.
This paper appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication, State of the Nation Report 2014, Dan Ben-David (editor).
An absolute majority of Israelis live in homogeneous Jewish or Arab localities, work in separate workplaces and attend separate schools. Nonetheless, the reality of separation is changing, and more integrative spaces are being created in various fields. This chapter focuses on the education system in Israel, examining past and present separation and integration between Jews and Arabs, and the reasons for and challenges posed by such. Part 1 surveys the genesis of the separation between Israel’s Arabs and Jews in the school system over the course of the twentieth century. Part 2 presents contemporary data on the slowly accelerating trend of integration over the past decade. Part 3 deals with the motivations of parents when it comes to choosing an integrated school for their children, and the conclusion touches briefly upon the challenges that integration poses to the designers of education policy.
This paper appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication, State of the Nation Report 2014, Dan Ben-David (editor).
This paper has two goals. The first is to describe the Ministry of Education budget in the years 2000-2014. The second goal is to examine the budget and the lack of transparency that does not currently allow the budget to serve as an effective planning tool.
Since this Report, the issue of learning environment has risen to the forefront of education policy discussions in the country. As little research has been done examining the relationship between class environment and student achievements, Taub Center Policy Fellow Carmel Blank and Taub Center Education Policy Program Chair and Tel Aviv University Professor Yossi Shavit chose to examine this issue in Israel’s non-religious state schools.
Blank and Shavit examined the characteristics of schools and classrooms using a questionnaire that asked students about school and class discipline and environment, school enforcement policies, and the student’s own behavior with regards to absences and tardiness. Afterwards, they assessed the impact of these characteristics on the likelihood of a class being considered “undisciplined” (that is, falling in the upper quartile of disciplinary infractions) as shown in the first figure. Their results show that the teacher’s role is important: when students perceive a teacher as unfair, the likelihood of that class being undisciplined is double that where students consider the teacher to be fair. Furthermore, in classes where the parents of the students have an above average education level, there are fewer disciplinary infractions. The overall school climate plays a central role as well. There are twice as many undisciplined classes in schools that have more than the average level of disciplinary infractions compared to schools that have fewer infractions. Similarly, in schools characterized by relatively strict disciplinary enforcement policies, the percentage of undisciplined classes is about half that of schools with relatively nonstrict enforcement policies.
Disciplinary environment is important in terms of its ultimate impact on students’ learning and educational achievements. The study’s central finding is that class disciplinary infractions have a significant negative effect on student achievement regardless of the student’s own behavior or past performance.
The second figure shows that MEITZAV (a Hebrew acronym for Measures of School Efficiency and Growth) test scores are negatively correlated with both the student’s individual disciplinary infractions as well as with the infractions at the class level. The impact of disciplinary infractions at student and class levels are quite similar. An 11-point achievement difference (80.4 versus 69.4) exists between a particularly disciplined student and an especially poorly-behaved student. The difference in test scores between a student who learns in a very disciplined class versus one in an especially undisciplined class (controlling for the student’s previous achievements and individual infractions) is 8.4 points (79.1 versus 70.7, respectively). In contrast, the study found no achievement differences between students studying in schools with varying discipline levels or different discipline enforcement policies.
The Taub Center study is part of a growing effort to examine the role of discipline in order to improve student achievements. Even so, it is one of the few studies to focus on classroom level characteristics rather than only on school characteristics, which allowed Blank and Shavit to discover that there are differences in the level of disciplinary infractions between different classes in the same school. It also identified that lower levels of disciplinary infractions and stricter enforcement policies at the school level, together with fair treatment by teachers, all have a positive impact on class discipline.
Finally, a student’s own level of discipline has a significant impact on the student’s academic achievements and, even after the student’s own characteristics are accounted for (by controlling for these statistically), classroom discipline also has a significant effect on student achievements. The Blank and Shavit study identifies the importance of classroom discipline, directing policy makers to the important role of school disciplinary climate and enforcement policies, together with the role of teachers’ treatment of students in promoting a positive and productive classroom environment.
The education of the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) and their participation in Israel’s workforce is a subject of hot debate in Israeli society today. But the discussions on this topic are not always based on accurate facts. As such, in the State of the Nation Report 2013 Taub Center researcher Eitan Regev explored trends in education and employment among the Haredim using a unique, more precise method of identifying this population.
A number of key findings emerged. First, as is the case for the non-Haredi population, higher education was very important to success in the labor market for Haredim, both in terms of employment and wages. Employment rates of Haredi men aged 25-64 with an academic degree stood at 71 percent, double that of their counterparts without an academic degree. A similar gap, though smaller, was shown for Haredi women. The wages of Haredi men aged 25-64 in full-time employment were 80 percent higher for those holding an academic degree than f.or those without.
Given the importance of an academic degree to the economic integration of Haredi families, Regev explores the rates of higher education in this population. In general, higher education rates among Haredim are much lower than that of other population groups. As shown in the first figure, only 7.5 percent of Haredi men aged 25-44 had an academic degree in 2008, as compared to 11.8 percent of Muslim and Druze men, 23.6 percent of Christian Arab Israeli men, and 31.2 percent of non-Haredi Jewish men. Large gaps in academic attainment also apply to Haredi women in this age bracket. Interestingly, in today’s Israel, women aged 25-44 are more likely than men of that age to hold an academic degree within each population subgroup.
There is a striking contrast in trends between Haredim and the other groups with regards to higher education. Among women in the Muslim and Druze, Christian Arab Israeli and non-Haredi Jewish population groups, there has been an increasing tendency to acquire an academic degree over time. Among these groups, women aged 25-44 are more likely than their older counterparts aged 45-64 to hold academic degrees. In sharp contrast, the share of academic degree holders among younger Haredi women (12.8 percent) is a third less than among older Haredi women (17.6 percent).
The situation among Haredi men is even starker. In contrast to the conventional wisdom, the share of Haredi men with academic degrees is declining, not rising. Even though more Haredi men are deciding to attain an academic degree, this is more than offset by the many more Haredim deciding not to do so. As a result, while 15.1 percent of Haredi men aged 45-64 have an academic degree, only half of that, or 7.5 percent of younger Haredi men, have an academic degree.
The share of academic degree holders among prime working-age Haredi men remained very low throughout the decade between 2002 and 2010, as indicated in the second figure. Similarly, throughout the decade, a low rate of bagrut certificate recipients (i.e., high school matriculation) was also evident. The largest group by far, and the only one showing a significant increase, from 31 to 47 percent of men in this age group, was that of Haredi men with no more than a primary school education. These trends are a result of more Haredi boys entering the yeshiva system after eighth grade, at which point they cease to receive any basic education in core curriculum subjects and focus solely on religious study.
The phenomenon of declining shares of academic degree holders in the Haredi population was documented for the first time in the Regev study and has major implications for Israel’s economy. When the younger generation of Haredi men increasingly has shorter lengths of formal studies and is less likely to hold academic degrees than the older generation, then its ability to find jobs in a progressively competitive and global market falls accordingly. It is no coincidence that while over 80 percent of prime working age Haredi men were employed in the late 1970s, less than 50 percent are employed today – with a multi-decade employment decline mirroring that of completely uneducated non-Haredi men. With the Haredi population growing more rapidly than the rest of the population, an increasing share of Israelis are not receiving the education and tools to participate in the economy. This has some major negative ramifications for future national standards of living and poverty rates in Israel.
This policy paper shows that the bagrut qualification rate amongst populations that take the exams have indeed risen consistently; there is no evidence to support the claims that this is due to a lowering in the difficulty level of the exams. Another common claim is that the scope of study in the sciences is low in Israel. In the second part of the paper data is examined that shows that the range of study is reasonable relative to other developed countries and that there is no proof of a crisis in the teaching of the sciences in Israel. In conclusion there is a brief presentation against the bagrut exam system and a suggestion for its reform.
The reasons for this separation are both practical and ideological. That division is required given the demographic, political and ideological realities. The policy since the establishment of the state was to preserve and strengthen Jewish identity amongst Jewish sector children, and accept – not always willingly – the existence of the national/ethnic identity of the Arab Israeli pupils. The ideological component was the more important of the two and is evidenced by the fact that even in places where a single education system could serve both populations – as in large mixed cities (Tel Aviv-Yafo, Haifa, Jerusalem, Acco, Lod, and Ramla) – there is still a complete separation between the two education systems.
This separation exists at all levels of the system and is reinforced in the State-religious and Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) schools by specific directives that “recommend” in no uncertain terms not to allow the integration of Arab Israeli teachers.
This reality has many implications on various levels. On the educational level there is an intense influence on the supply and demand of teachers due to sector-specific restrictions. On the social level the main influence is the strengthening of segregationist trends between Jewish and Arab Israeli residents.
In this Policy Brief:
First Policy Sphere: Creating Incentives and Providing Tools
Second Policy Sphere: Creating a Supportive Environment
Third Policy Sphere: A Multi-Year Strategic Plan
The decentralization and privatization trends in Israel, as in other countries, have created a heterogeneous and dynamic system, characterized by a variety of forces taking action to change and influence the entire system and its components, from both inside and outside. Globalization, with its economic, political and social aspects, is also fomenting changes in the educational system, and these are evident throughout its length and breadth, at all levels.
Concurrently, the internationalization process in the educational system is gathering momentum and drawing increasing attention, in both research and the field of policy. This trend stems from the connection between the international dimension of education and the educational system’s need to prepare in order to equip its graduates with the skills and abilities required in the twenty-first century. The internationalization process’s centrality to education stems from the desire to train those who study to assume an active citizenship role in a global world. Economic, political, social-cultural and academic considerations encourage governments and institutions in the developed world, as also in developing countries, to take action to promote global processes, international and intercultural, of either national or institutional scope. Nonetheless, as an essentially ethnocentric country, Israel must contend with certain challenges in the internationalization process, the essential goals of which have an international dimension. It is therefore of particular interest to examine the development of the process in the educational system in Israel.
This policy paper describes recent developments in the area of internationalization in the entire educational system, especially in the schools and in the higher education system. It presents a historical survey of the essential developments and major processes in the field, such as the Bologna process and the international matriculation program, going on to discuss the causes of these developments. It also describes the effect of these processes on the educational system in Israel and surveys developments in the field in Israel. Lastly, it presents future directions for development and the dilemmas that implementation of the internationalization process entails. It does all this in order to provide researchers, policymakers and the public in the State of Israel with updated information on the international aspect of the educational system, with the aim of promoting a sensible and advanced discussion of that aspect in the Israeli public sphere.
The following questions are addressed: Did the expansion of the Israeli education system during this period contribute to more equal educational opportunity among socioeconomic groups? And did the returns to education, in terms of income and occupational prestige, increase or decrease? The study is based on aggregate census data for two periods, 1983-1995 and 1995-2008. The sample included native-born young Israelis, both Jewish and Arab Israeli. The data show that despite considerable educational expansion, educational inequality among different socioeconomic groups increased significantly. Moreover, occupational prestige at all education levels except the very lowest decreased on average, especially at the highest levels of education. The latter change is explained by the fact that the demand for professional, academic, technical, and managerial workers grew only modestly leaving many newer graduates out of the field. A more encouraging finding is that the average income for young Israelis grew during the period. Much of this growth was due to the expansion of higher education, which increased the proportion of high-earning, highly educated individuals in the overall population. Nevertheless, the higher educated earn less today (relative to those without an education) than they did in 1995, that is, the economic returns to education have declined.
This paper appears in the Center’s annual publication State of the Nation Report: Society, Economy and Policy 2013.
Over the next four decades, the country’s universities steadily receded from the Israel’s national priorities. The number of students per professor more than doubled, while the universities increasingly outsourced the teaching to non-research, external lecturers.
This paper appears in the Center’s annual publication State of the Nation Report – Society, Economy and Policy 2013.
Pupils spend the majority of their time in the classroom, and yet, the assumption that disciplinary infractions in class reduce learning time and are harmful to pupil achievement has not been examined empirically. The aim of this study is to examine how various class and school characteristics contribute to the level of disciplinary infractions in the class, and how these problems impact pupil achievement. The study’s findings indicate that there are differences among classes within the same school with regard to the level of disciplinary infractions. It was also found that disciplinary infractions in class have a significant negative effect on pupil achievement, regardless of the pupil’s behavior or past achievement level. From this it follows that an improvement in a school’s disciplinary enforcement policy coupled with improvement in the teachers’ treatment of pupils can contribute to the reduction of disciplinary infractions in class and lead to an improvement in achievement levels.
This paper appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication, State of the Nation Report 2013, Dan Ben-David (editor).
A new and more precise method of identifying the Haredi population was developed, enabling a deeper analysis as well as a more comprehensive picture of employment and education patterns. The findings point to a significant positive effect of formal education on the employment rates and wage levels of Haredi men and women. Paradoxically, however, in recent decades there has been a gradual decline in formal education rates in this sector. An in-depth examination of the Haredi labor market reveals several irregularities concerning the supply and demand for manpower. Among Haredi men and women, there is both a considerable over-supply of manpower in the field of education and a lack of the tools and training that are necessary for integration in other fields. These trends coincided with a sharp rise in the rate of Haredi men studying in yeshivas, and in their average length of study. All of this indicates a gradual transition from the labor market to the world of Torah study. Entrenchment of these patterns makes the return to the labor market a significant challenge.
This paper appears in the Center’s annual publication State of the Nation Report – Society, Economy and Policy 2013.
Shlomo Swirski is amongst the most vocal critics of educational tracking. He sees it as a tool for social exclusion and advocates an all-encompassing, integrative system that includes both academic and vocational courses of study with a voluntary choice of courses absent of tracking based on ethnicity, gender, or social status. Prof. Shavit critiques Swirski’s approach from several perspectives, and raises anew the question of the advantages and disadvantages of educational tracking in the education system. In view of the fact that the rates of those reaching higher education are not likely to increase in the near future, Prof Shavit calls to renew the research into vocational training with the aim of identifying its effective aspects.
This paper is available in Hebrew only
The current paper looks at the practical implications of the decision to fully implement the law. It presents a methodology for projecting the number of children who will be added to the preschool system, as well as their distribution by sector and type of school regulation. It also calculates the number of new preschools that will have to be built, as well as the number of new preschool teachers who will have to be hired and the accompanying cost.
One of the main findings of the study is that the majority of the new children who will enter the public system live in the more well-established cities, principally Tel-Aviv, or in Jerusalem (mainly in East Jerusalem).
The final section of the work presents some suggestions that could reduce the expected costs significantly, as well as initial data on the implementation of the law thus far.
The chapter first presents the continuing slowdown in the growth rate of Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) education and Arab Israeli education, as opposed to the rise in the growth rate of official Jewish education. It goes on to describe the effect of the decision to implement the Compulsory Education Law for Ages 3-4 on the number of pupils in public preschools. Lastly, the chapter examines the effect of the signing of the New Horizon agreement on various characteristics of the teacher population, such as average age, job intensity, and wages.
This paper appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication State of the Nation Report 2013, Dan Ben-David (editor).
These agreements largely resemble principles proposed by the National Task Force for the Advancement of Education (the Dovrat Commission) in 2005. One of the chapter’s two primary focal points is a comparison of the major items in the agreements signed with the teachers to the parallel items in the recommendations of the Dovrat Commission. The other is an attempt to answer the question of why the Task Force recommendations encountered such sweeping opposition on the part of the teachers’ unions, when the agreements that were eventually signed – after prolonged strikes and bitter struggles – are so similar to the original recommendations. The answer suggested here is that the two primary reasons for the wide rejection were the Dovrat Commission’s preference not to increase the government budget for education, and its unwillingness to allow the teachers’ unions a voice in formulating the recommendations. Furthermore, the Dovrat Commission’s recommendations on some issues contradicted positions deeply rooted and widely accepted within the teacher community.
This paper appears in the Center’s annual publication State of the Nation Report – Society, Economy and Policy 2011-2012.
Class-size reduction, for example, was evaluated rigorously in a state-wide randomized experiment in the US, and led to important knowledge about the potential payoff of this reform. Generalizing from research in other contexts is problematic, even if the research was well designed, so rigorous studies of education in Israel are needed to determine which programs are effective in this country.
This paper appears in the Center’s annual publication State of the Nation Report – Society, Economy and Policy 2011-2012.
However, the specific teacher characteristics that affect achievements are not known. Thus, it is unclear how to improve the quality of teachers. Some suggest changes in the selection criteria of teachers; others believe that pay incentives would motivate skilled teachers to enter and remain in the profession. Studies of the effectiveness of economic incentives on teacher efficacy yield mixed results. Israeli studies indicate the positive influence of individual and group economic incentives on student achievement in the matriculation exams. In contrast, studies in other countries have found that economic incentives do not have a significant influence on pupil achievement. In the past decade the education system in Israel has undergone two reforms – Ofek Hadash and Oz LeTemurah. The reforms include, amongst other things, incentives by way of a salary rise, performance-based bonuses and new career ladders. These reforms included promising components as well as possible pitfalls that are discussed in the paper. Finally, there is a call for an evaluation of these programs in an attempt to assess the impact of their components on pupil achievement and on teacher motivation, morale and performance.
This paper appears in the Center’s annual publication State of the Nation Report – Society, Economy and Policy 2011-2012.
The results were similar whether incentives were provided to individual teachers, or on a school-wide basis. One interpretation of the findings is that teachers were motivated to improve performance, but lacked the tools to do so. Other teacher quality initiatives should be evaluated with the same rigor as has been applied to the compensation reforms.
Following the social protest movement of the summer of 2011, several focus groups came together with the aim of formulating concrete demands and recommendations for socioeconomic policy changes. This chapter relates to “protest documents” that were formulated by four groups and focuses on their recommendations in the area of education. An analysis of these documents reveals important differences between them as well as no small measure of agreement regarding promising policy directions. The goal is to distill policy proposals that are likely to contribute to an improvement in academic achievements while narrowing gaps between ethnic groups and social strata amongst Israeli pupils. In addition, the aim is to articulate an educational vision based on these proposals, to identify the central common recommendations and to estimate the costs of their implementation.
While the importance of early childhood education for long-term success is widely known and commonly accepted, Israel’s investment in education for its youngest children is provided in a piecemeal manner, with wide disparities in preschool enrollment and tuition costs. Despite the amended Compulsory Education Law (1984) which brought the statutory age of compulsory education down to 3, the law has been implemented only since 1999, and solely in localities with lower socioeconomic rankings, affecting only about one-third of Israeli children. As a result, the cost of preschool education for 3-6 year-olds varies widely depending on the education framework in which they are enrolled. Prices range from almost no monthly fee in the public system to NIS 3,000 or higher in the private system.
Historically, resistance to full implementation of the law has been based on a number of factors: concerns about lack of funding for construction; concern that universal preschool education would come at the expense of other budgetary areas in need of expansion; belief that funds should be allocated to subsidies for low-income individuals rather than to universal education; and concerns about a lack of physical and organizational infrastructure in the Arab sector, which was to be the main beneficiary of the amendment.
A recent Taub Center study written by Taub Center researchers Nachum Blass and Haim Bleikh with Hila Zaban from Ben-Gurion University, and edited by Deputy Director, Prof. Ayal Kimhi, merges educational and economic expertise in a comprehensive overview of Israel’s pre-primary education system, including the budgetary implications regarding implementation of the law.
Preschool in the Arab Israeli sector
The Arab Israeli sector was to be one of the first beneficiaries of the 1984 preschool amendment, yet deficient infrastructure in the Arab sector was cited by policy makers as a potentially serious obstacle to the law’s implementation.
According to Taub Center researcher Nachum Blass, the implementation of the Compulsory Education Law led to a 54 percent enrollment increase in the Arab sector between 2000 and 2005, yet only a two percent enrollment increase over the next five years. Despite this substantial increase, preschool enrollment rates remain lower in the Arab sector than in the Jewish sector.
The first figure compares the preschool enrollment rate of Arab children with that of Jewish children. In 2000, 49 percent of Arab children and 85 percent of Jewish children attended public preschools. In 2010, by comparison, about 71 percent of 3-5 year-old Arab children and 84 percent of 3-5 year-old Jewish children attended public preschools. Attendance in private preschools was negligible in the Arab sector and grew in the Jewish sector.
Preschool in the Jewish sector
Within the Jewish sector, the number of 3-5 year-olds attending preschool increased approximately 27 percent between 2000 and 2010. During the same period, there was an increase of approximately 57 percent in Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) Jewish preschool attendance, 15 percent in State preschool attendance, and 20 percent in State-religious preschool attendance.
The second figure shows how quickly the distribution in preschool enrollment has changed within the past decade. The largest group of preschoolers in both 2000 and 2010 was in the non-religious State schools. However, this group’s share fell sharply over the past ten years, from 43 percent of the total to 37 percent. The smallest group – in the religious State schools – also declined in its relative share, from 17 percent to 15 percent of the total number of enrolled preschoolers in Israel.
Enrollment share increases occurred in the Arab Israeli and Haredi schools. Each of these systems enrolled 20 percent of all preschool children in 2000. By 2010, these shares rose substantially, to 23 percent in the Arab Israeli schools and to 24 percent in the Haredi schools. Within the Jewish community alone, the share of Haredi preschoolers rose from 25 percent in 2000 to over 31 percent by 2010.
As a side note, between 2005 and 2010, there was a 20 percent increase in the number of 6 year-olds remaining in kindergarten for another year, a phenomenon that is most prevalent within the Jewish population. According to Blass, “many of these 6 year-olds remain in kindergarten without proper justification.” In practical terms, this results in 10,000 extra kindergarten pupils, requiring an additional 350 kindergarten classrooms.
A law in the books – but in the budget?
One finding of the study relates to the expected budgetary impact of immediate, full implementation of the law. According to the Taub Center study, universal implementation of the compulsory education law amended in 1984 will involve a start-up cost of NIS 2.3 billion with additional operating costs of NIS 1.4 billion a year. This is a sizeable sum, implying an increase of about four percent of the entire current education budget at a time when budgets for existing programs are being threatened with cuts.
These costs would include NIS 700 million currently paid each year by parents that would fall on the government, and NIS 670 million spent annually on operating costs for about 80,000 children aged 3-5 not attending public preschools as of 2010. This estimate reflects the addition of 2,700 preschool classrooms with 30 children per class and operating costs of NIS 250,000 per class. One-time costs could reach NIS 2.3 billion, including capital costs of approximately NIS 500,000 per preschool classroom for 2,700 classrooms, and teacher training for 4,000 additional teachers at NIS 250,000 per teacher. The authors suggest that these costs could be reduced through the use of existing structures and better use of manpower.
The Taub Center study concludes that universal access to pre-school education is a worthy and important goal, as pedagogical research from around the world confirms. In various sectors within Israel, public preschool attendance has increased over the last decade, yet many parents continue to pay large sums for their children to attend private preschools.
The Trajtenberg Committee, appointed by the government to suggest changes in socioeconomic policy, recommended implementing the Compulsory Education Law for children aged 3 and older throughout the country, moving gradually to a longer school day in preschools, passing legislation for universal supervision of preschools, and moving the responsibility for the daycare system for 0-3 year-olds to the Ministry of Education. Given the cost of implementation of the Compulsory Education Law for all children aged 3 and older and the historical foot-dragging in budgetary allocations for universal preschool, it remains to be seen whether the Trajtenberg Committee’s recommendations will, in fact, be implemented over the long term.
It provides qualitative information based on a literature review and on interviews with representatives of different authorities and organizations involved in early childhood education. In addition, quantitative data analyses are provided that are based on detailed pupil-level and preschool-level data from the Ministry of Education.
Many socioeconomic indicators as well as school achievement test results indicate considerable gaps between the Jewish majority and the Arab minority in Israel. It is conceivable that the roots of these gaps lie in differential access to and quality of early childhood education in the two sectors. The study therefore highlights Jewish-Arab differences throughout.
This is expressed, amongst other things, in recommendations for changes through the Economic Arrangements Law. For this reason, this paper refers to this as the “lost decade.” The first part of the paper describes the characteristics of the decade; the second half discusses the professional committee’s work that recommended corrections and/or improvements required by the system. The third part deals with the work plan of the Planning and Budget Committee 2010-2016, which is focusing primarily on correcting the complications of the past decade in order to renew and revitalize the academic system. The final portion of the paper examines the directions that are missing in the work plan as well as the overall renewal of accessibility policies, the role of higher education as a response to Life Long Learning, formation of a new attitude of institutional responsibility for quality, alongside releasing the bureaucratic “bottle neck” for approving academic programs, and the need for academic policy to insure high quality candidates for teacher training programs. This section of the paper also proposes a new theoretical and practical structure similar to the levels of development in other educational system around the world.
The initial part of the chapter shows that while Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) and Arab Israeli shares of the pupil populations are growing, there appears to be a recent slowdown in this growth. An examination is conducted on how this trend is reflected in changes in the distribution of the preschool population. The second part of the chapter concentrates on the national expenditure on education. In recent years, there has been a large increase in education spending – although spending per pupil relative to GDP per capita has been falling further and further behind the OECD average. The final section deals with the expected impact of the Trajtenberg Commission’s recommendations in the field of pre-primary education against the background of the latest developments in the budgetary realm and in relation to the OECD countries.
Even without the inclusion of ultra-Orthodox boys – who do not participate in the exams – the Israeli average achievement is lower than in every one of the 25 OECD countries that are relevant for comparison in the West. Likewise, gaps in achievement among the Israeli pupils are greater than the gaps within each of the 25 countries. While the country’s weakest pupils score below the weakest pupils in all of the 25 OECD countries, the level of Israel’s top pupils is lower than in 24 out of the 25 Western countries.
This appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication State of the Nation Report – Society, Economy and Policy 2010.
The Taub Center’s annual State of the Nation Reports have put a bright spotlight on the impact that education has in determining living standards and income gaps. This document summarizes main points of this issue through a brief visual roadmap that underlines the importance of education for Israel’s society and economy, the state of the country’s education, and the implications.
Two prominent features are the rising share of enrollment in unofficial recognized Arab schools and the growing trend of extending kindergarten by an extra year for six-year-olds. Comparisons of teachers’ pay and work conditions in Israel and other countries are based on the OECD publication “Education at a Glance.”
Once data from Israel are properly adjusted and corrected, Israeli teachers fare much better comparatively than is commonly thought. The chapter’s final section discusses pupils’ achievements on the matriculation exams. Although the percentage of pupils receiving a matriculation certificate has remained stable in recent years, when viewed along with the growing number of ultra-Orthodox and East Jerusalem Arab pupils who opt out of these exams, there is an increase in 12th grade enrollment rates and in the percentage of pupils taking the matriculation exams, earning the matriculation certificate, and meeting higher education admission requirements.
This paper appears in the Center’s annual publication State of the Nation Report – Society, Economy and Policy 2010.
Its dominant Jewish culture celebrates informality, contempt for authority and defiance. Israeli classrooms are usually large, and teachers are poorly paid. These characteristics are reflected in a rather high frequency of disciplinary infractions in Israeli schools. While Israeli legislators are concerned with school discipline and violence, actual legislation has tended to safeguard students’ civil rights, and to impose strict limitations on the sanctions that teachers and principals can employ in their attempts to enforce discipline in schools.
Employing the Israeli TIMSS data files of 2003 we study the school-level determinants of disciplinary infractions and of victimization in Israeli schools. We also study the extent to which disciplinary climate in schools and classrooms affects students’ achievements in math and science, their educational expectations and victimization in schools. Our main and most important result is that school discipline is related significantly, if modestly, to students’ achievements. We found significant negative effects of teachers’ reports of classroom disruption and of student victimization on their test scores. Our results refute the hypotheses that school climate is more disciplined in religious schools than in secular ones. In addition and contrary to oppositional culture theory, the results show that Arab students are more disciplined than Jewish students.
This paper appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication, State of the Nation Report 2010, Dan Ben-David (editor).
Research has shown that these two variables, family size and class size, adversely affect academic achievement. International studies show that pupils’ achievements are lower in Israel than in other developed countries.
An analysis of PISA 2000 and PISA 2006 data shows that the relative size of Israel’s young population which is related to high birth rates explains most of the gap between the average score of Israeli pupils and the international average.
The influence of the size of the young population on pupil test scores is correlated to family size and classroom crowding. Whereas, other studies have sought the explanation for low achievement in features of the education system itself, the current study shows the significant contribution of the broader demographic context to the comparatively low achievements of Israeli pupils.
This appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication State of the Nation Report – Society, Economy and Policy 2010.
The education system tries to minimize these gaps with its emphasis on the accomplishments of weaker socioeconomic sectors. Nevertheless, stronger groups in the population have an advantage in attaining an education.
This study examines the rate of education for those born between 1955 and 1981, and offers a method of tracking the gaps in education from the 1970s until the turn of the millennium. The results indicate a certain narrowing of the gap for matriculation eligibility between the varying socioeconomic levels. Within higher education, even with its significant expansion, socioeconomic inequality remains. The gap between Jews and Arabs in higher education that actually increased at the start of this period, decreased among those born in the 1970s and onwards as the rates of higher education among Arabs increased greatly. The gender gap for matriculation and academic rates among those born in the second half of the 1970s increased significantly in favor of women.
This appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication State of the Nation Report – Society, Economy and Policy 2010.
The current work is not meant to prove that the situation in the education system is satisfactory. The achievements of pupils in Israel on international tests are low; the educational gaps between pupils of different social status are very large; the school climate leaves much to be desired, encourages superficiality and is often affected by violence.
Still, an examination of the data and the achievements of the education system over the past decade do not point to a process of deterioration, and, in certain areas, the opposite is actually the case. It is quite possible that in view of the prevailing economic, social, and political reality, the fact that the achievements of the education system have not fallen stands as a tribute. Exaggerated and inappropriate criticism will not help advance the system and is likely to contribute to depression and despair that is out of place.
Access to higher education in Israel requires the successful completion of high school bagrut (matriculation) exams in core subject areas. Due to the central place of the matriculation certificate in the educational system, it has long been a central policy goal both to improve bagrut completion rates for all Israelis and to increase the completion rate among those from less advantaged backgrounds. The Chair of the Taub Center’s Education Policy Program, Professor Yossi Shavit joined together with Vicki Bronstein to study the trends in attainment of the bagrut certificates and examine to what extent these goals have been reached.
Shavit and Bronstein first look at overall attainment, and find that it has greatly improved in recent decades. Of Israelis born in 1955-1959, fewer than half ever attained a bagrut certificate; for those born in 1975-1981, the rate is over 70 percent.
In order to examine if disadvantaged groups have closed gaps in educational attainments, Shavit and Bronstein looked at bagrut achievement among groups differentiated by various background measures. The first figure shows how successful completion of bagrut (matriculation) exams changed over time for three groups: those with parents having only primary education; those with parents having a secondary education (some high school); and those whose parents have a college education.
In Israel, as in other countries, educational achievements of children are highly correlated with the education levels of their parents – the higher the parents’ education, the greater the likelihood that children will graduate from high school. But over time this gap has been greatly narrowed in Israel. The figure shows that children with the least educated parents showed the greatest improvement. Children in the middle group, whose parents had a secondary education, showed a lesser but still substantial increase. Among the children whose parents hold academic degrees, there was no increase at all in bagrut rates.
Another aspect of inequality in high school graduation rates is that between Jewish and Arab Israelis. The second figure shows trends in bagrut rates for both Jews and Israeli Arabs over a period of more than twenty years. (Because year to year changes can be very sharp, the graph shows a moving average of five consecutive years.) The gap between those born in the late 1950s was about 15 percentage points; virtually the same gap is found between those born in the late 1970s. The bagrut attainment of Israeli Arabs has greatly improved, but it has not come closer to that of Israeli Jews.
The pattern that is most striking, and perplexing, is displayed by changes in completion rates among men and women (see third figure). Already among those born in the late 1950’s, women attained bagrut certificates at a much higher rate than men. Almost 55 percent of women in that age cohort received a bagrut, compared to roughly 45 percent among men. But the men did not close the gap, as did the children of uneducated parents, nor was there even a parallel improvement, as was the case of Israeli Arabs relative to Jews. Instead, starting among men born in the middle 1970s there was a pronounced and persistent drop in bagrut rates over a period of years, even as women continued to increase their completion rates. As a result, the gap between men and women widened from about 10 percentage points to about 30 percentage points.
The widening gender gap is especially marked among Arab Israelis. Over this period Arab men moved from a 15 percentage point advantage in completion rates over women to a 15 percentage point disadvantage – a total swing of about 30 percentage points in bagrut attainment.
Shavit and Bronstein consider various explanations for this phenomenon, which they conclude needs more attention than it has merited so far. While pupils with less educated parents did narrow the bagrut attainment gap with peers born to more educated parents, Shavit and Bronstein did not find evidence of a parallel narrowing of educational gaps with regard to attainment of university or college degrees. These students did see an increase in the percentage obtaining degrees, but the improvement was similar to that found among the students from more educated households.
The full article of Shavit and Bronstein will appear in Taub’s forthcoming State of the Nation report.
The current paper briefly summarizes a larger study on school discipline in Israel, its determinants, and its relation to pupil achievement based on TIMSS 2003 data. The fuller study is part of a nine-country international study on the relation between school discipline and pupil achievement. Its findings show Israeli pupils to be less disciplined than their international counterparts.
Moreover, Israeli pupils have been found to be lower achievers despite higher levels of parental education than in the other participating countries. Can poor discipline explain the relatively low achievements? The study’s conclusion is that if discipline among Israeli pupils matched the international average, the achievement gap between Israel and the other participating countries would diminish considerably but not completely vanish.
This appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication State of the Nation Report – Society, Education and Policy 2010.
The strong relationship between education and employment has been found across developed countries. More educated workers are more likely to be employed and enjoy higher incomes. This relationship between education, employment and incomes, which is primarily due to structural changes inherent in the economic growth process, has strengthened in recent decades. As economies develop, the need – or the demand, as economists refer to it – for educated, skilled workers increases while the demand for uneducated and unskilled workers falls in relative terms.
This education-employment link is strong in Israel as well – and it crosses gender and sectoral lines. In his article on Israel’s labor market in the latest State of the Nation Report, Taub Center Executive Director, Dan Ben David, found that more education is related not only to higher employment rates, it is also related to much smaller employment gaps between Jewish and Arab women and men.
The first figure focuses on employment rates for Israelis with relatively little education, those with no more than 11 years of schooling. It shows that Arab women with little education also have extremely low rates of employment – no more than 10 percent for any age group. Jewish women with low levels of education have higher rates of employment, though these barely rise above 60 percent at their peak. While young Arab men with little education have employment rates similar to those of their Jewish peers, the rate falls rapidly with advancing age, and by the early sixties their rate of employment is only about half of that for non-haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jewish men.
The employment situation for Jewish and Arab women and men with academic degrees differs considerably. The second graph highlights two important findings. Among those with academic degrees, the overall rate of employment is much higher for all groups. Having an academic education is associated with higher employment rates at all ages and for all groups.
The graph also shows that the gaps between groups are considerably smaller for academics. The overall gap between employment rates for non-haredi Jewish men versus middle-aged Arab women is over 60 percentage points, while for academics in the same age group the difference is on average less than 15 percent.
It is important to note that these graphs show only employment rates indicating whether or not an individual is employed. They do not show salaries, nor do they show whether individuals are employed full-time or part-time. That said, even this relatively simple barometer shows substantial differences between individuals with little education and those with academic degrees.
An academic education is associated with substantially higher employment rates for Israelis of all backgrounds and ages. In addition to the equalizing effect that greater education has on employment rates across sectors and gender in Israel, it also has a very positive effect on the economic growth of the country as a whole by increasing the national ability to assimilate, utilize and develop new technologies requiring a more educated labor force in high-tech sectors.
The necessary decisions on action policies need to be based on reliable up-to-date data regarding the demand for teachers, the potential supply as well as the conditions and steps available to policy makers to influence the supply and demand. This paper examines the components of the supply and demand in Israel, relates to the question of whether there is currently a shortage of teachers and throws some light on solutions for specific cases of teacher shortages after establishing that the shortage is not, in fact, acute. The paper outlines recommendations for policy in two central directions: one, focusing the efforts to use the resources that are allocated to the system more efficiently; and two, innovative and creative incentives for currently employed teachers to increase their work load.
Preliminary research conducted by Taub Center Deputy Director Prof. Ayal Kimhi that will appear in the Center’s next State of the Nation Report shows that Israeli wage gaps, after declining from Western peaks, have been rising steadily over the past several years.
As indicated in the first figure, the Israeli wage gap in 1998 was higher than in any OECD country and more than double the ratio found in a number of countries (see box for explanation of how gap is measured).
In the wake of the recession after the year 2000, Israeli wage disparities declined somewhat while the American wage gap rose (second figure). By 2003, U.S. wage inequality exceeded Israel’s. Since then, wage gaps increased in both countries, placing them both at the top of the OECD by 2008, with the U.S. ranked in first place and Israel second.
Among the primary factors influencing pay, it is customary to consider gender, work experience and education. The third figure focuses on wage gaps within each of these categories to see which of these may have had the greatest impact on the overall wage gaps.
The average pay of men in Israel was 44% higher than that of women in 1998. As indicated in the right panel of the third figure, this gap narrowed substantially, falling to 37% by 2008. A similar, though somewhat smaller, decline was found in the return on work experience (middle panel of the third figure). Experienced workers – those with at least ten years of experience – earned 46% more than their less experienced counterparts in 1998. By 2008, wage differentials between the two groups declined to 42%.
In contrast to what transpired over time in the two other primary sources of wage inequality, wage gaps due to differences in education exhibited a considerable increase. Educated workers (those with at least 12 years of study) earned 68% more than their less educated counterparts in 1998. Over the last decade, the return to education grew even larger, and the gap between those with more than 12 years of schooling and those with less grew to 77%. Insofar as this gap grew while the others lessened, it is safe to say that the primary cause of the growth in the overall wage gap is the increase in the return on education.
This increase in the return to education is itself an expression of the fact that the demand for educated workers rose more rapidly than their supply. In other words, the rate at which new, more educated workers enter the work force and replace the previous, less educated ones has been unable to keep pace with the increasing demand for educated workers.
The increase in demand for educated workers is a result of the increasing weight of knowledge-intensive sectors in the Israeli economy. As the share of these sectors grows, it is likely that the growing demand for educated workers will persist for the foreseeable future.
In light of the above, the principal policy focus for reducing wage gaps in Israel needs to be in the education of the country’s work force. The country needs to make it a national priority to provide a solid education that will enable its schoolchildren and college students to contend in a future global, competitive economy.
Although the left panel of the third figure describes the gap in terms of return on the years of schooling, the number of years of schooling by itself is not the only consideration. Israel already boasts a high percentage fraction of students who finish twelve years of schooling. They need to receive a core curriculum geared to the modern labor market, in terms of the subject matter and the quality and effectiveness of the teaching. Research published by the Taub Center in the last few years regarding the effectiveness of Israel’s education system suggests that Israel still has a way to go in this regard.
The 90-10 ratio is one of the accepted measures for wage differentials. It is the ratio between the salary of the worker at the 90th percentile (one who earns more than 90% of the work force) and that of the worker at the 10thpercentile (one who earns more than 10% of the work force). This measure is not affected by changes in the earnings of senior management, who are found in the very highest percentiles, nor by changes in the earnings of workers at the very bottom of the pay scale. It is customary to measure only those employed full-time, that is, at least 35 weekly hours.
The current research examines the relationship between the uniform national pay scale for teachers, where the range is relatively limited between the starting salary and the maximum salary, and between the quality (as expressed by salary and results of various tests) of those training to be teachers on the one hand, and the teacher’s salaries compared to other professions, on the other hand. The central finding of the research is that the relative standing of teachers, as expressed through their salaries, is closely linked to their place of residence – in residential areas where the socio-demographic level is low their salaries are the same and even higher than that of other professionals and in areas where the socio-demographic level is high, the opposite is true. Due to the well known relation which is accepted in the research literature between level of salary and level of skills in professions and between their social status, the research findings lead to the conclusion that the social status of teachers is high in relatively low socio-demographic areas; the reverse is also the case.
In Israel, fertility rates are very high in relation to developed countries. As a result, Israeli families are relatively large, and class size is high. These two variables are known in the literature as factors limiting scholastic achievement. Using PISA 2000 and PISA 2006 data we show that the relative size of the young population in Israel explains most of the gap between the scores of Israeli students and the international average. Number of siblings and mean class size mediate the effect of the size of the young population. While studies on achievement usually focus on the education system itself, this study highlights the importance of the demographic context to the understanding of educational outcomes of Israeli students.
Affirmative action policies have managed to reduce resource inequalities between different socioeconomic groups within school sectors, but have been much less successful in reducing inequalities between sectors.
The Israeli educational system has been undergoing some major transformations. These include demographic changes within the Arab Israeli and Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) sectors that have in recent years gone from being a small minority to constituting nearly half of the primary school system today. The evolution of public education in Israel is examined in greater detail in Nachum Blass’s chapter “Israel’s Education System — A Domestic Perspective” in the Taub Center’s The State of the Nation Report: Society, Economy and Policy 2009 with some of the main points highlighted here.
It has often been suggested that as a result of changes in Israeli society and in the relative pay of teachers, the teaching profession is attracting less talented young people than in the past and is suffering from a loss of prestige in Israeli society. The problem is purported to be most acute in underprivileged areas. A Taub Center study by Blass and Romanov examined these perceptions and discovered that Israelis continue to hold teachers in relatively high esteem and have good reason to do so. Among their findings and those of other supporting studies:
|•||The pay of teachers across Israel is uniform, with a slight advantage to teachers in the weakest regions.|
|•||The quality of new teachers, as measured by their performance on standardized psychometric tests prior to enrolling in higher education, is higher than that of the veteran teachers.|
|•||In relatively poor communities, the pay and cognitive abilities of teachers are above average for their communities and in many instances are even higher than those of members of other professions with an academic education.|
|•||The Social Survey of the Central Bureau of Statistics shows that on the whole, teachers have a high degree of satisfaction from their work (though a much lower degree of satisfaction from their pay). Over 90% of teachers report that they are satisfied with their work.|
|•||The prestige of teachers as measured by survey data indicates that teaching is a respected profession in all parts of Israel while in the most disadvantaged areas, it is particularly admired|
Though further study is certainly warranted, it would seem that there is no crisis in the status of the teaching profession or in the abilities of new entrants to the teaching profession in Israel.
Affirmative Action in Education
Since the 1960’s, the Ministry of Education has made it a priority to reduce educational inequality by adopting “affirmative action” policies to provide additional education resources to disadvantaged pupils. These extra additions to the budget are meant to provide smaller classes, more class hours and increased teacher hours for the disadvantaged population.
This policy has been effective in reducing gaps in these areas within each education sector, but has contributed little toward lowering inequality between sectors. This outcome is partially due to the Ministry of Education’s tendency to focus its attention on the secular and religious Jewish State sectors at the expense of the rapidly growing Arab and Haredi school sectors.
The figure below focuses on one of the affirmative action targets: class size. It divides primary school students into groups based on their socioeconomic background: the upper third, middle third, and weakest third. Average class size is indicated for each group. The figure presents the outcomes separately for each sector of the education system: Arab education, Jewish State secular system, State-Religious system, the “Independent” or mainstreamHaredi system, and the Sephardi Haredi “Mayan HaChinuch HaTorani” system.
Within each system, the affirmative action program is relatively effective. The upper socioeconomic third in each sector has the largest class size and the weakest third the lowest class size. The only exceptions are the SephardiHaredi system, the smallest of the five, where the better-off students have smaller classes than those in the middle, though even here the poorest students have the smallest classes. Not enough Arab students from the top socioeconomic third were represented to enable its inclusion in the graph.
While affirmative action policies appear to have an effect within sectors, the figure above shows that affirmative action policies have been less effective between sectors. Class size among the least advantaged students in the Arab sector is larger than that of the most advantaged students in the other sectors. Furthermore, the extent of affirmative action within the Arab sector is minimal; the difference in class size between the two thirds is less than one student, whereas in all the other sectors it is at least two students.
Instruction hours show a similar pattern. Each sector provides more hours of instruction to the lower socioeconomic levels, but the total number of hours of instruction between sectors varies widely. The number of hours of instruction given to the most disadvantaged students in the State-Religious system, 2.4, is 50% greater than the number of hours provided to the most disadvantaged students in the Arab sector, 1.6. These findings were in the primary education system. Similar trends are found in secondary education.
One place that affirmative action does not provide an advantage to poorer students is in measures of teacher quality. Teachers in higher socioeconomic areas tend to have greater seniority and higher levels of education than teachers in schools with disadvantaged students. However, the gap in teacher quality in Israel is smaller than the gap in other countries. That Ministry of Education’s policies favoring disadvantaged students appear to have had an impact not only in class hours and class size, where the disadvantaged students have a clear advantage, but also in teacher quality where the gaps are lessened due to policy.
The State of Israel faces several severe problems in the socio-economic realm: high levels of poverty and income inequality, and economic growth rates that are low – in relative terms – compared to leading developed nations. These problems are connected in many areas and in particular in the area of education.
Economic growth is accompanied by a steady and continuous process of structural change. As a result, the demand for educated and skilled workers increases while the relative demand for unskilled labor declines. As long as comprehensive measures to reduce the supply of uneducated and unskilled labor are not implemented, these workers will find it difficult to find employment and their wages will suffer. This will in turn have severe consequences for poverty and inequality.
Figure 1 (from the Taub Center’s State of the Nation Report: Society, Economy and Policy 2009) shows the relationship between education, employment and income for 2008 among individuals between the ages of 25 and 54. The higher the level of education, the lower the rate of non-employment and the higher the income.
This relationship has been becoming much more pronounced over time, as is evident from Figure 2. The graph shows the average rate of non-employment within low-education groups among prime-working age men aged 35-54 from 1970 through 2008. Four decades ago, the percentage point differences in non-employment rates among the various education levels were very small compared to today. Non-employment was less than 10 percent for all groups.
Since then, non-employment rates among men with only 1-4 years of schooling have exhibited a five-fold increase, reaching approximately 50 percent today. There was also a significant increase in non-employment among men with 5-8 years of study, although their rates of non-employment still remained below those with 1-4 years of study. The increase in non-employment becomes more moderate as the level of education increases. The lowest rates of non-employment are among those with 16+ years of study (generally people with an academic degree). In contrast with the other education groups, average rates of non-employment in the 16+ group have not increased since the mid-1990s.
A nation seeking to reduce rates of poverty and inequality at their source must increase the level of education among its population. A person whose education is upgraded will have better prospects of finding employment and of obtaining a higher income – and reduced chances of living in poverty. As more and more individuals upgrade their education, there will be less competition for jobs among those who remain less educated, and they too will find that their prospects of garning employment and raising their incomes have improved. As in other countries, the economic growth process and the increasing demand for educated workers guarantees a positive return to education even when the educated population in the economy grows.
While complementary stimulatory measures – such as a negative income tax for low-income workers and a tax on employment of foreign workers – can make a non-negligible contribution toward improving employment and wages among Israelis, only comprehensive policies dealing with the problem sources, including upgrading levels of education and skills in Israel, can bring about substantial changes in Israel’s long-term trends of poverty, inequality and economic growth.
In 1960, 15 percent of all primary school pupils were enrolled in either the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) or in the Israeli Arab school systems, while 61 percent were in the non-religious State school system (Figure 6). Two decades later, by 1980, the share of ultra-Orthodox and Israeli Arab pupils rose to 26 percent. Those children are today’s working age adults, whose rates of non-employment are described above.
According to Nachum Blass from the Taub Center, during the first decade of the 2000s there was a decline of three percent in the number of pupils in the State school system, an eight percent increase in the State-Religious school system, a rise of 33 percent in the Israeli Arab school system, and 51 percent more pupils in the ultra-Orthodox school system. As a result of changes over the past few decades, nearly half (48 percent) of primary school pupils in 2008 were ultra-Orthodox or Israeli Arabs.
If the changes of the past decade continue, then in 30 years, in 2040, the share of ultra-Orthodox and Israeli Arab pupils will be 78 percent of all pupils in Israel’s primary schools, whereas the share of pupils in the State school system will fall to only 14 percent.
There are two main reasons why it is reasonable to assume that this situation will not materialize. If, as adults, these children will adopt their parent’s current employment behavior, it will be difficult for the State of Israel to survive. Conversely, if as adults, they adopt employment rates close to Western norms, it is likely that future birth rates will also be different than today’s.
In order for tomorrow’s adults to be employed 30 years from now, then today’s pupils need to receive an education befitting the needs of a modern economy. This is not the situation today in Israel. The country’s level of education in the core curriculum subjects is the lowest among advanced Western countries – and among haredi and Israeli Arab pupils, it is even lower.
The achievement levels of Israel’s children are consistently below those of each country in the reference group of 25 OECD countries in nearly all of the years surveyed. Achievement gaps within Israel are wider than in each of the OECD countries in each of the years, while the achievement levels of both the weakest and the strongest pupils are at the bottom – or very close to the bottom – of achievements in the Western world.
If, in the past, it was possible to argue that the country’s education system was not short of money, budgeting cuts over the past decade have effectively removed this argument.
The chapter concludes with highlights of a proposed systemic educational reform.
This paper appears in the Center’s annual publication State of the Nation Report – Society, Economy and Policy 2009.
This situation has potentially more damaging implications due to the fact that the achievements of Arab Israeli and ultra-Orthodox pupils in core curriculum subjects do not meet global market requirements and this will make it difficult for them to be integrated fully into Israeli society.
The Ministry of Education budget utilization data revealed that, despite the fact that affirmative action has long been an integral part of the Education Ministry policy, there are still significant gaps between different parts of the education system. An in-depth examination of the system in this chapter reveals its positive and negative aspects.
This paper appears in the Center’s annual publication State of the Nation Report – Society, Economy and Policy 2009.
The advantages of Jewish sector education are especially notable in participation in pre-school education, high school education and higher education levels.
However, over the years there has been a continual narrowing of gaps in the various educational inputs. This includes reducing the gaps in direct financial resources invested in the educational systems that serve students from different socio-economic backgrounds and improving the quality of manpower, as well as in outputs, as expressed in learning rates as well as qualifications for matriculation.
The criticisms regarding the inequalities in education that still remain should not negate the positive steps and achievements of affirmative action. Along with this, the advancement of weaker groups occurred while the stronger groups continued to improve their situation, especially in the areas where learning rates have not yet reached their full potential. This is similar to what has happened in the majority of the Western countries.
However, this policy does not try to influence directly the placement of teachers in weaker schools and areas, despite the accepted assessment of the influence of the quality of teachers on the educational attainment of students.
This paper examines the relationship between teacher characteristics and measures of the socio-economic characteristics of schools, in order to assess the extent to which the current distribution of teachers is in line with a policy of affirmative action.
Surprisingly, no marked differences in the quality of teachers were found between schools serving different student populations. Further, teachers in schools that serve stronger populations were not found to be more “expensive” to the system. In fact, the opposite was found to be true, indicating “affirmative preference” in this aspect of the allocation process. “Thus,” the authors conclude, “the major achievement gaps that persist between schools differing in the socio-economic characteristics of their students cannot be attributed to the seniority, education level and salaries of the teachers.”
This paper is available in Hebrew only.
The chapter begins by presenting main developments and changes in the past decade in the student and teacher population. Part 2 discusses the financial resources that are available to education, as reflected in government expenditure, its share in overall national education expenditure, and the state budget. Part 3 discusses changes in the Ministry of Education policies that affect the narrowing of educational disparities and affirmative action for weak population groups.
This paper appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication, Israel’s Social Services 2007.
In this agreement, the government committed itself to working to reduce class size to a maximum of 32 students. The research has two levels: one level examines the expected advantages and disadvantages of fulfilling the commitment. This includes a discussion of the educational advantages of small classes and in particular the ability to give students attention according to their needs, the opportunity to raise student achievement and the chance to improve the atmosphere in the schools. The second level presents the results of a simulation experiment in which the details of the resources required to fulfill this commitment are examined. The results are examined in terms of the money and manpower required at each educational level. It was found that the total costs would be somewhere between NIS 5.7 and 9.3 billion not including the one-time expenses of building and training the new teachers that will be needed. It was also estimated that some 17,000 new teachers and 7,500 classrooms will be necessary to implement the class size reduction.
This paper is available in Hebrew only.
The emphasis has moved distinctly towards an emphasis on educational standards and student achievement. The impact and meaning of this move is examined in this paper as well as the central players and the results in terms of the educational system as a whole.
This paper appears as a chapter in the book Formulating Social Policy in Israel, Uri Aviram, Johnny Gal and Yosef Katan (editors).
This paper is in Hebrew only.
The first part of the analysis deals with major changes in the first of these dimensions — changes that affect the character and the quality of the education system. The major developments of the system are not new and have been assessed in the past. Nevertheless, because of their importance it is necessary to review them, briefly, in order to obtain a clearer understanding of these developments and their effects. The second part of the survey focuses on resource allocation to the education system: the budget, characterization of the resources, and the developments of recent years.
This paper appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication, Israel’s Social Services 2006, Yaakov Kop (editor).
This paper is available in Hebrew only.
The two viewpoints were: that violence is “imported” from outside the school and the alternate view is that it is endemic to the system and structure of schools. The report includes recommendations based on successful courses of action taken in various schools in Israel.
This paper is available in Hebrew only.
On the other hand, the system underwent two important developments with unclear implications for the future: the continued implementation of the Shoshani Committee Report on changes in the budgeting method of primary schools; and the publication of the Dovrat Committee Report, which conducted a comprehensive examination of the education system and presented proposals for change and improvement.
It is absolutely clear by now that the implementation of the Shoshani Committee Report has led to the redistribution of budget resources among schools and segments of the primary education system. In the main, the Arab sector received extra resources and sectors that had previously enjoyed preferential treatment suffered substantial cutbacks. (The issue is discussed at greater length below.) It is still premature, however, to point to the full effect of the reform. Firstly, the report is being phased in, over five years. Secondly, additional budget cutting continued last year, too. Thirdly, some school principals and directors of education departments in the local authorities are not yet fully aware of the significance of the changes in the budgeting method. Thus, some of the changes, such as the closure of small schools and the reorganization of school-level resources, have not become fully evident for the time being. Just the same, the report has had the demonstrable result of enhancing equality in resource allocation at the primary school level.
he discussion that follows is dedicated to the two main actors in the education system: pupils and teachers. Regarding pupils, the focus is on the phenomenon of “horizontal” movement between segments of the education system, i.e., transfers between the State and the State-Religious systems, between the official systems and the non-official recognized system, and between public and private schools (Part 2). As for teachers, the main issue is whether Israel is facing a shortage of teachers in the near future and, if so, what is to be done (Part 3).
The budget discussion focuses on the initial results of the change in the budgeting method of primary schools and examines in detail the need to expand the method to preschools and the education system that serves special-needs youngsters (Part 4).
Part 5 tackles education policy by probing the origins of the current feeling of crisis in the education system and proposing ways to cope with the relevant issues. The analysis focuses on the polarization that typifies Israel’s education system and on population groups that are unable to realize their potential. Lastly, there are proposals in three main fields: quality of personnel, curricula and core curriculum, and changes in school budgeting.
This paper appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication, Israel’s Social Services 2005, Yaakov Kop (editor).
This also became a national undertaking with the establishment of the Dovrat Commission. There is a feeling of a crisis following the poor attainments of Israeli students on the international scholastic tests, low achievement on Army tests, and growing educational gaps in achievement and in matriculation certification between social economic groups.
This article focuses on the most worrisome issues in education, their causes and recommendations regarding ways of thinking towards change and improvement of the educational system.
This paper is available in Hebrew only.
This paper examines the subject of privatization as it impacts the field of education
This paper is in Hebrew only.
The first dimension is the increase in student enrollment and changes in the distribution of students among sectors of the system. The second concerns changes in the size of schools and classes. This dimension, too, is discussed on the basis of distribution among sectors of the system. The fragmentation of the education system by educational streams and communities is reflected in a proliferation of small schools; this phenomenon is discussed at length. The third dimension is the budgeting of the system and how it varies by educational level. The fourth dimension concerns main developments in education manpower.
Part B discusses two issues of major concern in Israeli society: the rising trend in private expenditure on education, using “other sources,” especially parent payments, to finance the system; and the issue of inequality in achievements and educational disparities, and the relationship between them. In this context, the education system’s ability to narrow disparities among students who come from different social strata is examined. A proposal is put forward for an initiative to promote compensatory educational activities, entailing extra resource allocation for those population groups who under-achieve due to certain socioeconomic characteristics. The proposed activities would raise the achievement level of the population at large and narrow inequality among its segments.
This paper appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication, Israel’s Social Services 2004, Yaakov Kop (editor).
This approach supports implementation of different strategies for learning within the school and even within the classroom.
This paper is in Hebrew only.
This paper is in Hebrew only.
This paper is in Hebrew only.
This paper is in Hebrew only.
This paper is in Hebrew only.
The survey analyzes cross-sections by age in various educational institutions – preschools, primary schools, and post-primary schools – of varying levels and types, as well as post-secondary schools and higher education (colleges and universities). There are additional vertical cross-sectional analyses by sector, differentiating between Jewish and Arab schools and within them by type of school system.
This paper appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication, Israel’s Social Services 2001-2002, Yaakov Kop (editor).
This paper is available in Hebrew only.
Publication available upon request.
This paper appears in Hebrew only.
This publication is in Hebrew only.
The first group includes recommendations concerning central-government policy measures that may not require budget allocations but may affect the performance, social status, and quality of the education system. This group includes Recommendations 1-3 and Recommendation 10.
The second group focuses on resource allocations for measures that may narrow disparities in inputs for the various sectors, in consideration of each sector’s different needs, in order to narrow gaps in scholastic achievements. Recommendations 5-7 belong to this group.
The third group concentrates on resource allocations for pedagogical measures meant to enhance the educational process and the system’s outputs. At issue here are Recommendations 4, 8, 9, and 11.
We do not offer a yardstick for use in prioritizing the recommendations. However, to fulfill three of the recommendations – applying the State system to all children countrywide, paring the executive functions of the Ministry of Education, and aiming for a 50 percent rate of matriculation-certificate eligibility among members of the relevant age group by the end of the incumbent government’s tenure – immediate decisions and preparations seem to be necessary.
This paper appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication, Israel’s Social Services 1999-2000, Yaakov Kop (editor).
The first part of this section presents the main characteristics of enrollment and calls attention to major processes and trends. Afterwards, the discussion focuses on the system’s two main organizational settings: the class and the school.
The growth and development of these two settings have important budgetary implications. The class is the decisive unit in budgeting of the education system; the number of classes is the factor that determines the cost of the system.
The second part of this section discusses class size in its educational, organizational, and economic aspects. This part presents the distribution of classes by size and various characteristics of the population and uses this context to focus on the implications of reducing class size.
The third part of the section discusses school size in several respects. Various factors affect the size of schools and they rarely lend themselves to rapid change. The figures and discussions presented below shed light on various aspects of the issue.
This paper appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication, Israel’s Social Services 1999-2000, Yaakov Kop (editor).
The second half of the 1990s has been under the sign of a slowdown in terms of budget growth and system expansion. This slowdown should be viewed against the backdrop of the retreat and cutbacks in other social services, on the one hand, and the protracted economic slump, on the other hand.
This year the education chapter focuses on the accelerating expansion of post-secondary and higher education. Our point of departure is post-primary education, especially the transition stage between it and higher education – the matriculation examinations – which must be passed in order to be eligible for the future possibilities available to graduates of the formal education system. The chapter begins with an analysis of the fiscal resources available to the education system and then reviews the system’s non-financial development as a preface to discussion of issues in higher education.
This paper appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication, Israel’s Social Services 1998-99, Yaakov Kop (editor).
This paper is in Hebrew only.
This publication is available in Hebrew only.
This publication is available in Hebrew only.
This publication is available in Hebrew only.
The study deals with inequality in two distinct realms: educational resources and educational achievements.
This paper appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication, Israel’s Social Services 1996, and is available upon request.
The study shows the the performance of expenditure on civilian public consumption declined markedly in 1994-1995, meaning the the public did not receive its full due for the heightened burden foisted on GDP for the delivery of these services.
This paper appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication, Israel’s Social Services 1996, and is available upon request.
This report analyzes actual government outlays for social services in 1994 and the budget for 1995. The findings are analyzed in the context of development in the 1980s and 1990s.
This paper appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication, Israel’s Social Services 1994-1995, and is available upon request.
The overarching examples of change looked at here in education, health, and income maintenance point to the emergence of new patterns in the operating environment of the social services. Systematic inspection of each of these social systems shows that in order to continue nurturing the Israeli welfare state, it will be necessary to reexamine the objectives, the goals, and the means for attaining them.
This paper appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication, Israel’s Social Services 1994-1995, and is available upon request.
This publication is available upon request and is in Hebrew only.
This publication is available upon request and is in Hebrew only.
This publication is available upon request and is in Hebrew only.
This publication is available upon request and is in Hebrew only.
As a result of these cutbacks, there has been the development of the “grey market for education,” a phenomenon that serves to widen educational disparities.
This paper examines the implications in terms of costs and manpower for extending the school day.
This paper is in Hebrew only and is available upon request.
The proposed center would provide the education system with feedback on its products and outputs. It would have other potential functions that are unrelated to product appraisal; these are discharged today by various agencies, some within the Ministry of Education and others outside it.
This paper appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication, Israel’s Social Services 1988-1989, and is available upon request.
In view of the shortage of preschool education services, most Arab children reach formal education inadequately prepared to cope with the demands of school. Providing preschool education is also an important factor for tackling the basic problems of Arab society, some of which are connected with the transition from traditional to Western patterns. The program proposed here is based on establishing an extensive system of kindergartens, family nursery schools, and training facilities designed for the plan’s implementation.
This paper appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication, Israel’s Social Services 1988-1989, and is available upon request.
The present study attempts to examine whether Israeli scientists do show a quantitative preference for doing their research abroad rather than in Israel, and, if this is the case, to identify the main components of this preference. The study also suggests possible ways of arresting this trend, which threatens the future of science in Israel in many ways.
This publication appeared as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication, Israel’s Social Services 1988-1989 , and is available upon request.
This paper appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication, Israel’s Social Services 1987-1988. This publication did not appear in English this year.
The Hebrew publication is available upon request.
First, we expand the discussion to include expenditures on social services by all active participants in the social field in addition to the central government. In other words, we explore national expenditure, including the activity of the private and the non-profit organization sectors, which complement the government activity.
This paper appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication, Changing Social Policy: Israel 1985-1986, and is available upon request.
It produced a series of proposals for raising academic qualifications of teachers, restricting entry of unqualified teachers into the education system, and granting teachers a substantial pay increase. Along with these, there were also recommendations for far-reaching changes in the Israeli education system, aimed at remodeling it in line with a new conception of the school as a community education center open over extended hours, rather than merely an institute of formal education.
The main part of this paper is devoted to a discussion of the policy implications of the proposals. The main problem pointed up by the study is that if the framework of government allocation to education remains unchanged, the additional expenditure required for implementing these recommendations must come at the expense of other educational programs.
An additional aspect analyzed in this work is the issue of geographic variations in teaching standards. The paper finds that the collective agreements reached following the Etzioni Commission “distributed” salary increases uniformly, even though they could have been allocated so as to constitute a greater incentive for experienced teachers to transfer from their present posts to more distant schools.
This paper appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication, Israel’s Outlays for Human Services 1984, and is available upon request.