The gaps in academic achievements in Israel are large and concerning, a report composed by the Knesset Research and Information Center stated on Tuesday, ahead of a session on poverty.
The report summarizes and points to worrisome data regarding the State's treatment of the problem of poverty and its implications on education.
Last year there were 420,100 families living in Israel, including a total of 783,600 children, which make up 34% of the children in the State of Israel.
According to Education Ministry and State Comptroller's Office data, the State has yet to formulate a systematic policy to realize the goals set by the Shahar Education and Welfare Services Department, which is responsible for advancing weaker populations and closing the gaps in the education system, and as revealed by Ynet, is about to be shut down.
The report, which is based mainly on data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, the National Insurance Institute and the Education Ministry, points to a significant gap in achievements between students from different socioeconomic backgrounds.
The gaps can be seen in rates of eligibility for matriculation certificates (Bagrut) and the meeting of university entrance requirements.
In addition, despite the increase in achievements in the Arab sector in recent years in the Bagrut exams, a breakdown of the data on matriculation exams and certificates shows a significant gap in favor of the Jewish sector (not including the ultra-Orthodox sector).
The results of The “Meitzav” exams, a Hebrew acronym for school growth and efficiency indicators, which are held every two years reflect a similar picture and also show large gaps between Hebrew speakers and Arabic speakers, as well as significant gaps in each sector between students from different socioeconomic backgrounds.
The results also show that the gaps continue to widen each year among Hebrew speakers.
The present situation with regards to the gaps among Israel's students can also be seen in international tests, the most prominent being the Program for International Student Assessment exam (PISA) and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study exam (TIMSS).
Both tests reveal that the gaps in students' achievements in Israel are among the highest among OECD member states, if not the highest.
A special UNESCO report provides solid evidence that education has the power to minimize the negative effects of poverty, but the schools and the education system alone do not have the ability to overcome the influences of poverty.
According to the report, a comprehensive socioeconomic policy is needed to combine improvement on the educational level and the promotion of equality within the education system with broad steps to minimize the scope of poverty surrounding students.
Chairman of the Knesset's Education, Culture, and Sports Committee MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi) commented on the report saying, "The poverty data which clearly points to a significant gap in the achievements of rich and poor students should set off a warning sign in the government and in the Finance Ministry.
"The cutbacks in education are the main cause of a second, third and fourth generation of poverty, and they are what has turned the education system into a poverty trap, instead of a system that minimizes the social gaps."
According to Orlev, "Only a thorough change in the economic policy, in which three to four million shekels are budgeted, will bring about a real change and equal opportunities to the poor students in the education system."