Press Release: High School Dropouts

Embargo until Wednesday (25.9) 6:00 am

Click here For the full research in Hebrew 

With the start of the school year, the Taub Center is releasing a new study by researchers Guy Yanay, Hadas Fuchs, and Nachum Blass on high school dropout rates. The findings show that the phenomenon has declined considerably, especially among weaker population groups.

Despite the overall decline in dropout rates across all population groups and genders, the research finds that dropout rates are still high among particularly vulnerable groups like immigrants and students from weak socioeconomic backgrounds.

A new study by Taub Center researchers Guy Yanay, Hadas Fuchs, and Nachum Blass looks at dropout rates among 10th to 12th grade students and finds that rates dropped from almost 10% in the 2003 school year to less than 8% in 2017.

Excluding Haredi schools, where a large portion of the students transfer to yeshivas that are not under Ministry of Education supervision, the dropout rate declined even further, from about 9% to almost 5.5%. Dropout rates among Haredi girls are low and similar to rates among girls in the other Jewish sectors.

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 drop in rates, from 9.5% in 2003 to about 5.5% in 2017, almost halving the rate over the course of a decade.

Since the middle of this decade, the dropout rate from technological education has been almost the same as the rate from academic tracks. This is significant because today, unlike in the past, technological education gives its students similar opportunities for social mobility as academic track education. That said, there are substantial differences in dropout rates within technology tracks; 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 (vocational) track, which struggles to keep its students in the system, saw the greatest percentage point decline from 28% to 19%.
Dropout rates from academic and technology education tracks

The dropout rates from academic tracks in Arab education are twice as high as those from the Hebrew education system

In the Arab education sector, there has also been a considerable decline in the dropout rate, from 15% to about 8%. The drop is particularly striking in the Druze sector, where the rates now resemble those in the non-Haredi Hebrew education sector. However, dropout rates among academic track students in the Arab education sector are twice as high as those among students in the Hebrew education sector.

Given the high dropout rates within the academic track, it is surprising to find that the dropout rate from the technology tracks in Arab education is actually lower than in the Hebrew education sector. In terms of gender, boys in Arab education have dropout rates that are 3 times higher than girls in the sector.
Dropout rate by education sector

Within the Arab education sector, the decline in dropout rates in technological education are especially striking in the high technology track, where dropout rates are lower than in the Hebrew sector (only 1% drop out in the Arab sector), and in which there has also been an increase of more than 40% in the share of students enrolled.

A closer examination shows that the most significant factor in the declining dropout rate from Arab education is not the educational track but rather the students’ family background; students from stronger socioeconomic backgrounds study in the high technology track.

Taub Center’s researchers found that the dropout rate among boys decreased from about 11% to about 7% and among girls from about 6% to about 3.5% – a drop of some 40% for both gender groups. A between sector comparison shows that, 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% among boys in Arab education versus 5% among boys in Hebrew education.

Looking at rates by geographic district, the researchers found there are no substantial differences between students in Hebrew education in different geographic regions of the country while, among students in Arab education, there are large differences. When socioeconomic background factors are controlled for, though, the disparities due to geographic location become non-significant in explaining the dropout rate.

An exception to this is Arab education in the Tel Aviv district, where the dropout rate remains significantly higher than in other areas, even when controlling for other factors.

Schools in the Arab education sector are more successful at preventing dropping out than in the Hebrew sector

As expected, the dropout rate rises as the school Nurture Index rises in both sectors – a higher Nurture Index score indicates lower socioeconomic status of the school and its student body. It is important to note that the level of success of schools of similar Nurture Index rankings in having their students complete 12 years of education is not the same in the Hebrew and Arab education sectors.

In fact, there is a clear advantage in favor of the Arab education sector; Arab schools at the lowest Nurture Index ranking among schools in the Arab education system (highest socioeconomic ranking) had a dropout rate of only 2%, while the rate in schools in Hebrew education with similar Nurture Index rankings was 4.5%.

In Hebrew schools with the highest Nurture Index among schools in the Hebrew education system (with the weakest socioeconomic ranking), the dropout rate was 8.5%. Among Arab education schools with a similar ranking, the rate was only 6%. This demonstrates the ability of schools in the Arab education sector to retain their students.

Taub Center’s researchers found that among new immigrants the dropout rate is particularly high – over 9%, versus 3% among Israel-born students. It is especially high for those students who immigrated after the age of 12, about 20%. For those who immigrated at a younger age, the dropout rate is declining, from nearly 10% to about 6%.

It should be noted that higher dropout rates among immigrants who arrived at an older age is not a phenomenon unique to Israel and is well known in other countries. It is possible that the high rate among those who immigrated after age 12 has to do with their leaving Israel or transferring to other educational tracks.

In summary, the researchers say: “The past few years have seen a considerable improvement in high school dropout rates. The continuous decline in the dropout rate from technological education may indicate that it is giving its students equal value to academic track education in terms of opportunities for higher education and integration into the labor market. We have also seen a narrowing of gaps between students in Hebrew education and Arab education, although the dropout phenomenon is still present primarily among weaker population groups.”

In order to further reduce dropout rates, the researchers suggest some possibilities, among them developing innovative frameworks that deal with dropouts in ways other than conventional school frameworks and targeted programs appropriate for new immigrants.

The President of the Taub Center, Professor Avi Weiss, adds: “The education system has the ability to give students from different socioeconomic backgrounds an opportunity to attain human capital skills needed for the future labor market; technology education is an important portion of this effort. Special attention should be paid to population groups with relatively high dropout rates, especially new immigrants to Israel.”

The Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel is an independent, non-partisan socioeconomic research institute. The Center provides decision makers and the public with research and findings on some of the most critical issues facing Israel in the areas of education, health, welfare, labor markets and economic policy in order to impact the decision-making process in Israel and to advance the well-being of all Israelis.

For details, or to arrange an interview, please contact Anat Sella-Koren, Director of Marketing, Communications and Government Relations at the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel: 050-690-9749; 02 567 1818 ext. 110.