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'Israeli students lagging behind OECD counterparts'
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December 6, 2016 13:00
“The results of the exams emphasize the need for minimizing gaps in education in Israel,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett said in reaction to the results.
Naftali Bennett

Education Minister Naftali Bennett meets with pupils at the start of the 2015/16 school year. (photo credit:SASSON TIRAM)

Israeli students continue to lag behind their OECD counterparts in reading, mathematics and science, according to the latest results of The Program for International Student Assessment test (PISA) released Tuesday.

The PISA exam, which has been administered every three years since 2000 in 72 countries, aims to assess educational systems by measuring 15-yearold students’ skills in literacy, math and science. The OECD is the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, an intergovernmental public policy group.



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According to the results, Israel’s achievement in science stood at 467 points, compared to the OECD average of 493, ranking Israel in 40th place.

Similarly in mathematics, the average OECD student – with a score of 490 – outperformed the average Israeli student – with a mean score of 490 – placing Israel in 39th place.

Israeli students also scored significantly lower in reading than their OECD counterparts, with respective scores of 479 and 493 and placing 37th.

The findings further indicated that only 13.9% of Israeli students were “top performers” (students receiving the highest level scores) in at least one subject, compared to the OECD average of 15.3%.

In contrast, Israel had a much higher rate of “low achievers” in all three subjects – 20.2% – compared to the OECD average of 13%.

Across all areas tested, Israel showed results with the largest range of grades in the world.

According to the National Authority for Measurement and Evaluation in Education, which released the breakdown of Israeli student PISA test scores, there were significant gaps between students of different sectors and socioeconomic standings.

The findings indicated that Hebrew-speaking pupils scored similar to, or even surpassed the average OECD student, in all three subjects.

In science, Hebrew-speaking students scored 488, comparable to the 493 points scored by the average OECD student and some 87 points higher than the average Arabic-speaking student.

In mathematics, Hebrew-speaking students surpassed the OECD average, scoring 495 points compared to 490, while Arabic-speaking students received an average score of 391.

In reading, too, Hebrew-speaking students surpassed their OECD counterparts, scoring 507 compared to 493, while Arabic-speaking students scored an average of 391.

Furthermore, the rate of “low achievers” in all three subjects among Arabic-speaking pupils was 45%, compared to 12% for Hebrew speakers. Almost no top achievers were found among Arabic speakers.

Large gaps were seen between students from higher socioeconomic backgrounds than those from lower such standings.

In science, for example, students from high socioeconomic backgrounds scored an average of 511 points, compared to 472 for those from midrange socioeconomic backgrounds, and 420 among students from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

In math, students from high socioeconomic backgrounds scored 510 points on average, compared to 478 and 423, among students from midlevel and low socioeconomic standings, respectively.

“The results of the exams emphasize the need for minimizing gaps in education in Israel,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett said of the results.

The exams show a picture that “requires significant improvement in educational achievement and minimizing gaps between the strong and the weak,” he said.

“Upon taking office, I decided to invest the majority of resources in strengthening the study of mathematics and improving teaching capabilities in Israel.”

Bennett added that the results of the Meitzav exams, an internal test that measures fifth and eighth grade achievements in math, science, and either Hebrew or Arabic, and that were released last month, indicated for the first time a narrowing of gaps.

“However, the road ahead is still long and we have a lot of work ahead of us,” he said.

“We will continue to invest so that every child in Ofakim, [and] Rahat will have equal opportunity to those in Ramat HaSharon.”

The Education Ministry also released a statement acknowledging the “significant and high” gaps between students of different socioeconomic standing and between other population groups.

“The ministry leads a clear policy of minimizing gaps which will promise equal opportunity to every child,” the statement read.
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