Statistics show that in grades 8-12, the rate of male dropouts was twice that of females. Both groups experienced a decrease over the last few years, with the 2011 male dropout rate at 4.5%, compared to females at 1.7%. Additionally, in 2011 the passing rate for high school matriculation exams was 62% for females, while only 51% for males.
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"In general, the rate of students with attention deficit and behavioral issues is greater among boys than girls and it's reflected in the school dropout rate," explained Professor Zemira Mevarech, dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Bar Ilan University. "Girls for the most part are well behaved, so that even if they are poorer students, they still succeed in passing through the system from year to year and not dropping out. You must remember that boys who drop out integrate into the workforce and help support the family."
Girls' success in high school carries over into the post-high school academic world. During academic year 2011-2012, there were 303,600 students attending Israeli institutions of higher education, of which 172,000 were women, at 56.7%.
This is an increase in comparison to years 1969-1970, in which most students were male and the percentage of women stood at 43.3%. Professor Mevarech emphasized that even while there are more female than male students, when it comes to the high levels of academia, there are more males than females holding professorships.
"When they were established, academic institutions in Israel had more fathers than mothers, especially during the seventies and eighties, when there was a clear majority of men within the population studying for degrees," said Dr. Daniella Schankar-Schrek from the School of Government & Social Policy, at Beit Berl Academic College.
Her research includes subjects related to public policy and its effect on women. "You must take into account that the litmus for academic progress is measured against men, thus for women it is very difficult to move forward to higher levels."
Attracted to human and social sciences
Within academics, there is a clear mixed tendency: Women are leaders in studies toward academic degrees, but they are less represented in professions such as engineering, electricity and physics, and more represented in the area of human sciences, such as education and occupational therapy.
"This is true, yet when considering the new fields of engineering such as bio-medicine engineering, environmental engineering, or industrial engineering and management, the number of women is large, and at Tel Aviv University, it is evenly split between men and women," said Professor Hagit Messer-Yaron, president of the Open University, and a professor at the School of Electrical Engineering at Tel Aviv University.
"Studies show that women are attracted to social sciences and feel more comfortable within them,” Messer-Yaron said.
Schankar-Schrek added that female students go into certain fields partly due to the emphasis placed on them during junior and senior high school, where girls are directed to those fields with the intention of integrating into the same fields during military service and later, within the academia.
Said Schankar-Schrek, "Even as efforts are being made to change this on the part of the Education Ministry, in reality the results are fewer female students in these areas."
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