Chen Artzi Sror
Chen Artzi Sror
Photo: Ynet
A school in Israel's Arab sector

A failing grade for Israel's education system

The latest OECD report on Israeli students' performance in key subjects shows that the country is failing its citizens; the 'Start-up Nation' needs to wise up and end the political bickering before it's too late

Chen Artzi Sror |
Published: 12.06.19 , 13:40
How will Israel look 20 years from now? What and who will be the forces driving the ship of state? Will it remain the "Start-up Nation" and will we remain the "People of the Book"?
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  • If the latest results of the PISA exams conducted by the OECD point to anything, it's that our hard-fought efforts and achievements over the last 70 years could actually amount to nothing.
    מורים יהודים מלמדים בבית ספר במגזר הערבימורים יהודים מלמדים בבית ספר במגזר הערבי
    A school in Israel's Arab sector
    (Photo: Shamir Elbaz)
    The Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA, is a worldwide study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 77 nations. It aims to evaluate educational systems by measuring 15-year-old pupils' performance on mathematics, science and reading.
    PISA, in contrast to other forms of standardized tests conducted in Israel, test independent thought, deduction and process learning. Tere is no memorization or specific curriculum, just an exam of foundation knowledge that students should have acquired over the years.
    This time, the failure is quite profound and hard to object to.
    Israel's results failed in every part of the exam, with results in science, reading and mathematics all below the OCED average.
    Tho make matters worse, the number of exceptional Israeli students in all three sections was significantly lower (8% in comparison to an average of 20% among all OECD countries).
    And who were those exceptional students? Jewish males from the center of the country of course. We didn't think for a moment it would be otherwise.
    The gaps between different socioeconomic groups have showed we failed, failed and failed again.
    Israel's societal gaps are among the widest within the OECD. There are gaps between the residents of central Israel and the periphery and between boys and girls, but the worst is the gulf between Jews and Arabs.
    Students in the Arab sector were found to be a shocking half a school year behind their Jewish counterparts - a gap that keeps increasing as time goes on.
    And what about the ultra-Orthodox Jews? Well, they weren't even tested. And one can only imagine how the data would look if they were included in the equation.
    The Education Ministry has one of the largest budgets in Israel, second only to the Defense Ministry.
    ראש העיר ומנהל אגף החינוך במפגש עם תלמידים ראש העיר ומנהל אגף החינוך במפגש עם תלמידים
    Parents and students of a school in northern Israel
    (Photo: Mor Shkifi-Lati)
    This is not a monetary issue, just society being perfectly reflected in the education system, shining a light on overt and covert processes going on in this country.
    A policy built on the premise of "We're doing great, just don't mention the Arabs and ultra-Orthodox" is a premise that promotes mediocrity and failure. It means low-grade welfare, health and education services, and no way of developing excellence.
    The Education Ministry tried to bridge the gap between Jewish and Arab students, for example, by moving large sums from the budgets into those communities, but to no avail.
    Sectors filled with degradation, violence, crime and a sense of worthlessness cannot promote intellectual curiosity and a desire to learn. This is the most basic tenet of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
    While politicians trade blows daily, the most vital system in the body of the state is collapsing and hemorrhaging, with no doctors in sight.
    The PISA results show that Israel is living on the last fumes of past achievements, and they eventually will run out.
    If nothing is done and soon, we will find out how soon that is.

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