Israeli classrooms are some of the most crowded in the world, according to the results of a study sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The study, “Education at a Glance, 2006 edition,” aimed to compare schooling systems across the world and their influence on education, economy and welfare, "to enable governments to see their education systems in the light of other countries’ performances” and improve their policy reform.
The comparative study was based on data gathered over ten years, from 1995 to 2006, and examined dozens of countries including Israel, the United States, Australia, France, Italy, Switzerland, Iceland, Greece, Turkey, England, Japan, China, Denmark, New Zealand, Canada and others.
On average an Israeli classroom numbers 32 pupils, while in developed countries, the average is 24 pupils. The most crowded classrooms are found in Korea (37), Japan (35), Brazil (33) and Chile (32). Iceland and Switzerland lead with classes of only 19 Pupils on average.
It should be noted that religious and private sector schools were included in the calculation, and thus the number recorded is actually lower than that observed on average in the Israeli public school system.
Education minister faults budget cuts
Education Minister Yuli Tamir said she presented the results of the OECD report on education published on Ynet at the Cabinet meeting Tuesday.
Tamir told ministers that the report showed the direct results of cuts to the education budget.
“I’m not ready to have a hand in the budget cuts that lead to the severe deterioration of the education system,” the minister said.
After learning of the report, Chairman of the Knesset Science and Technology Committee MK Zevulun Orlev said the state of education in the country was “a national disaster.”
“The failure was known in advance in light of the policies of the Likud-Kadima-Labor governments which led to 17 cuts to the education budget wroth some NIS 4 billion in just a few years. The government’s intention to continue cutting the budget is just adding insult to injury,” he said.
Lowest teacher salaries
While in Israel teacher organizations are constantly striking and demanding better wages and conditions, the study shows that they have what to complain about. Among 31 countries, Israel is fourth worst in teacher salaries relative to GDP. A yearly salary for an Israeli teacher stands at USD 18,000 on average.
Luxembourg pays its educators the highest wage – USD 84,000 per year, while in Australia teachers earn an average of USD 45,000 per year, and Swedish teachers earn USD 31,000. However, in Hungary, China and Poland teachers are paid only USD 10-15,000 yearly.
With that, the number of teaching hours at Israeli schools is one of the highest. Junior high school pupils learn for 800 hours per year, compared to the international average of 704 hours. In Japan pupils learn for only 534 hours per year, while in Mexico pupils learn for 1,047 hours and in the US for 1,080 hours.
The data further show that Israel has relatively good standing regarding the number of pupils who graduate from the school system. Israel ranks fourth out of 22 developing countries, with 92 percent of pupils completing 12 years of school. Norway ranks first with 100 percent, followed by Germany with 99 percent and Korea with 97 percent.
The average graduation rate worldwide was found to be 67 percent, and Israel outranked such countries as Japan, Denmark, Finland, China, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and France. With that, the quality of the matriculation certificate was not examined.
Spending per pupilIn Israel, the national expenditure per pupil in the formal education system is one of the lowest among developed nations, standing at USD 6,500 alone. The average in developed countries is USD 7,500 per pupil per year. Switzerland is highest with USD 12,100, followed by the US with USD 12,000 and Norway with USD 10,000. At the bottom of the list were Brazil and Turkey, who spend about USD 1,200 per pupil per year. Altogether 33 countries were examined.
It should be noted that according to the study, Israel spends the most (8.5 percent) on educational institutions relative to the GDP.
Israel also has one of the highest private funding rates, with 47 percent of funding in academic institutions coming from private sources.
Scholarships? Not in IsraelThe number of Israelis who register for higher education is on the rise, the study found: In 2000 49 percent of graduating pupils registered at academic institutions, while in 2005 the number climbed to 58 percent.
However, Israel ranks very poorly regarding loans and student scholarships. While the average in OECD countries is about 17 percent of public expenditure, in Israel it is only 10 percent. The average loan in Israel for a student studying at a state-funded institution is USD 2,300.
In half of the countries observed, students reported receiving cash grants from the government.
Israeli higher learning institutions have a relatively steep dropout rate, with only 58 percent completing their studies.
According to the study, many nations offer educational programs held in English, while in Israel it is extremely rare to find such programs, as it is in Austria, Belgium, Greece, Italy, Chile and other countries.
In most developing countries, English programs are common and enable students to study in English and find job placements where English is necessary.