The Ministry of Education published Thursday data indicating a 2.4% drop in the number of students taking the matriculation exams, and an approximate 2% drop in matriculation eligibility.
According to the data, in 2008 approximately 84,000 Israeli youths took their matriculations exams – about 72% of students in that age group. In comparison, in 2007, 74.4% of students took the exams
(85,500 students). The eligibility rate dropped to 44.4% in 2008 (as opposed to 46.3% in 2007). Moreover, a substantial decrease in eligibility among Arabs was noted, totalling 31.94 % in 2008 (compared to 35.53% in 2007).
An examination of the data over the past six years indicated an alarming trend, seeing as the number of students who take the tests dropped by 4% from 2003.
Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar said in response to the findings that the data is further evidence of the need to make a change in the education system.
Education Ministry Director General Dr. Shimshon Shoshani also responded, saying "the results do not relate to the present tenure. We shall be put to the test only in 2011. We are about to invest much more, also in the Arab sector, in order to try and raise the numbers. What is happening within the Arab sector is more alarming".
It appears that during Limor Livnat's tenure as education minister between 2001-2006 there was a consistent climb in the number of students taking the exams. However, this trend did not last long and Yuli Tamir's term as minister saw a sharp decline.
Lowering the average
The Ministry of Education claims that the reason for the drop is the dire situation among the haredim and east Jerusalem Arabs. Officials say that these sectors don't take the Israeli matriculation exams or any other, but are included in the data calculation and therefore lower the average.
A document published by the Ministry of Education's Chief Scientist's bureau Dr. Nora Cohen asserts that in the past, the two sectors' part in the population did not affect the matriculation eligibility rate. However, she noted, these groups' relative weight has risen in recent years due to their natural growth rate, and therefore one sees a consistent decrease in matriculation eligibility.