The Declining State of Israeli Education

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UPDATE 6 am Israel time, Thursday, October 4

According to information released yesterday by Israel’s General Security Services, September saw an increasing amount of Palestinian terrorist violence in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. Aside from the “rock” throwing, burning tires, spiked roads, and outright gunfire, there were 65 incidents involving Molotov cocktails: 28 in Jerusalem and 37 in Judea and Samaria proper.

There are reports this morning of Turkish troops pounding Syrian military positions along the Turkey-Syrian border.

The very interesting first American presidential debate has concluded. Because it focused on domestic economic issues, it will not be discussed in detail in this blog, but your humble servant will have a few comments tomorrow.


At this moment (6:30 am), your humble servant is excitedly on his way to Jerusalem to meet up with more than 10,000 other Israeli supporters for the annual Jerusalem March. Tomorrow’s blog will focus on the sights and sounds of that march.

Today however, your humble servant is focusing on the problem with the Israeli educational system, a problem that is rapidly getting worse. By 2017, the total number of students in Israeli schools of all types (regular public, orthodox, and Arabic) is projected to be 1.695 million pupils (today there are approximately 1.5 million).

But consider these facts:

*By 2017, orthodox and Arab students will compose 44% of Israel’s educational system. 18% of all Israeli students will be enrolled in religiously orthodox educational institutions; 26% of all Israeli students will be enrolled in Arab educational institutions.

The fastest growing sectors of the student population are the ultra-orthodox and the Arabic sectors.

Why is this a problem educationally?

According to statistics released in late August by the Israel’s Education Ministry, only 48.1% of Israel’s high school seniors passed the bagrut exams–the exams that allow them to apply to a university or college in Israel. 

Think about that . . . fewer than half of all Israeli seniors pass the Israeli college entrance examination.

In the Jewish sector:

*68% of non ultra-orthodox high school seniors passed the exams

*0.7% of ultra-orthodox seniors passed the exam

Yes, you read that correctly, 0.7%–virtually no ultra-orthodox passed the exams.

In the Arab sector:

*50% of Arab seniors (excluding Druze and Bedouins) passed the exams

*47% of Druze seniors passed the exams

*29.7% of Bedouin seniors passed the exams

To put all of these numbers in a different way, there is a huge gap in educational attainment between non-orthodox Jewish students and “everyone else”–but it is “everyone else” who is increasing most rapidly.

Why does this gap exist? Because each system is free to set its own educational curriculum–the ultra orthodox (many of whom have no desire to attend college) are not required to study such subjects as English and mathematics, and Arabic high school students have other subjects that they do not study. What is worse more than 20% of Arabic students drop out of the educational system before reaching the 12th year.

And what is the Israeli Education Ministry’s answer to these problems? To manipulate the statistics. Amazingly, beginning next year, “irrelevant reference groups” such as some of the ultra-orthodox will no longer be included in the statistics.

The sad fact is that the Israeli educational system is not preparing students to take the college entrance exams–with the result that an ever decreasing percentage of the population is qualifying for college or university study in Israel.  Of course, if the students who do not pass the exams have the monetary means, they can always find an educational institution abroad that will take them.

But, in sum, the future is not a bright one for education in Israel as the population grows ever less educated. It is particularly bleak for a country that has always prided itself on its scientific and literary achievements. There must be movement toward a uniform national curriculum, and a concerted national attempt to keep kids in school.

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