"The Israeli school system is one of the best out there," said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert upon the start of the new school year, but the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OCED) report on the matter begs to differ.
The number of students per-class in Israel is one of the highest in the world, with an average of 33 students in every junior-high calls room, as opposed to about 24 in other Western countries. Grade-school student fair only marginally better – 27 pupils per-class room, as opposed to 22 in other OECD countries.
Subsequently, the student-teacher ration in Israel is one of the highest in the world, with 17 students per teacher.
As a result, Israeli students are slipping is the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings: In the last two PISA tests, assessing students in reading, math and sciences, Israel ranked 39 and 40 out of 57 nations. Israeli students in the top 5% still trail far behind their OECD counterparts. Israel also has the highest standard deviation within the OECD's average results.
The OECD report did note, however, that Israel has a high ratio of high school graduates – 90% - which exceeds the average 83% of its other members, and the US' 77%.
As for the teachers' wages, an Israeli teacher earns about NIS 48,000 ($13,257) a year, as opposed to the average $27,828 (NIS 99,846) in other Western countries and $34,895 (NIS 125,370) in the US.
"The Israeli education system is abnormally heterogeneous, as it is made up of four sub-systems – Hebrew state school, Arab state schools, religious state schools and ultra Orthodox schools," said Education Minister Yuli Tamir in response to the OCED report. "This multitude of disciplines requires additional budgets, a problem which the OCED exemplary countries, don't have to face."
As for the objective problems noted by the reports, the Education Ministry said that the New Horizon program instated this year, is meant to tackle them.