Snapshot of an alarming reality: The chances of success for a Mizrahi woman from the south, born to parents with no college education, are much less than those of an Ashkenazi man from the center of the country and born to educated parents – at least on the psychometric exam, according 2011 data published Sunday by the National Institute for Testing and Evaluation.
"This is a snapshot of the reality in which we live when it comes to psychometric exams," Chair of the Knesset Education Committee MK Amram Mitzna told Ynet on Monday. "One of the most important goals we have set for the Education Committee is to deal with these gaps.”
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In 2011, 76,395 students took the college entrance exam (compared to 72,772 in 2010) in six different languages. The average score was 534. When considering issues such as race, place of residence, parents’ education, etc., it is important to note that this information was provided by the test taker, and there is no way to verify that the information provided was indeed true.
A woman’s place
The most significant gap in fact crosses the ethnic-geographic divide, relating to another sociological issue – that of gender. In 2011, the average score for men was 561, compared to only 518 for women.
However, this disparity likely stems from the fact that men taking the psychometric examinees are usually only those with the highest capability levels, compared to full participation in the exam seen in women of all levels.
Significant score differences were seen depending upon region of residence, origin and level of education of the parents. For example, the average score among the examinees in Tel Aviv was 585, compared with 499 for examinees from the south. Examinees who listed parents from Europe, America, or South Africa, achieved an average score 579, while the average score of examinees of Asian or North African ethnicity was 556.
There are those who choose to take the data with a grain of salt, as for example, only a third of the examinees identified themselves as coming from a lower socio-economic class.
"According to the answers one would think the economic situation in Israel to be very good," said attorney Eran Stein, CEO of Smart Psychometric. "There is a natural tendency to view yourself under improved economic status in relation to the reality."
Is the test biased in favor of Ashkenazim, men, center residents?
"No, the psychometric test does not create reality, it only reflects the reality of Israeli society. There are no questions that tilt the score in favor of a certain socio-economic level. It lies in the way that social inequalities exist. If both of your parents did not complete high school, then in most cases your ability to succeed in school or at work will be lower."
‘Psychometric exam not culturally biased’
Hana Dorsman, CEO of The College for All Foundation which promotes children and youth from the periphery, seconded MK Mitzna and Stein's views.
"This is a situation well-known by all Israeli education experts: In some areas of the country, the chances of academic success for a boy or girl are determined at birth, by region of residence and by their parents’ educations,” she explained.
The National Center for Testing and Assessment's responded: "The psychometric test reflects the achievements in the education system in general in Israel, so the combination of the SAT with high school matriculation exams gives the correct prediction regarding success in academic studies. The psychometric exam gives a second chance to those with average matriculation scores or those without a high school diploma. The exam is not biased toward culture, but speaks a language designed for all students in a higher education academic setting, regardless of background and origin."
MK Ahmed Tibi, who intends to initiate another bill to repeal the psychometric exam, told Ynet: "Again it has been proven that the test is culturally biased and does not constitute an accurate prediction tool of who should be a good and worthy candidate. In many countries in the OECD, there is no psychometric exam after high school. The gap of 100 points on average between Jews and Arabs, and of course the gap between center and periphery, require renewed discussion regarding the necessity of the test."
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