Despite Education Ministry efforts to reduce inequality in the education system, oftentimes policy is determined by and favors the more well-established in Israeli society, according to the annual TAUB Center for Social Policy Studies report released on Wednesday.
One section of the report, written by Nachum Balas, aimed to address the question, “who opposes and who gains from the gaps” in the education system.
The section examined four steps that were recently taken by the ministry to advance equality in education: school budgeting methods, an additional teaching assistant in preschools, reducing class size, and “toughening” budget policy regarding schools that are “recognized but not official.”
With regards to school budgeting methods, the report found that in the past, only a small amount of resources was dedicated to affirmative action, which was inadequate in narrowing the gaps between various populations.
In contrast, the current formula calls for allocating differential funds to schools based on the socioeconomic level of the student population. In theory this is meant to provide additional assistance to weaker schools, though in practice it has not really changed from the previous method, the report stated.
With regards to an additional teaching assistant, the report found that this decision was done in “one sweep in all locations, without any consideration for pupil characteristics.”
As such, the report found that even the higher subsidies originally decided upon for weaker socioeconomic municipalities, were in the end canceled due to pressure from other municipalities.
The “sardine protest,” which took place last summer in favor of reducing class size was undertaken primarily in more well-established communities in the Center, the report found.
Following the protest, the Education Ministry decided to devote resources to a gradual reduction in overall class size in elementary and middle schools.
The report stated that this decision would primarily benefit more well-established populations, since schools with pupils of low socioeconomic standings – mostly Arab and ultra-Orthodox schools in cities – were more overcrowded and were already slated for reductions in class sizes.
The study also examined the recent protests at the beginning of the academic year in Christian schools, which are classified as “recognized but not official.”
These types of schools are budgeted at 75 percent of recognized schools. As part of their strike, Christian schools demanded budget equality with ultra-Orthodox schools, which have the same legal status but receive full budget allocation.
The report found that their battle could create a precedent that would weaken public education.
“The differential budget is one of the tools that the Ministry of Education has to strengthen public schools, which, in contrast to certain private institutions, do not set admission requirements and are required to use an official educational program. If their demands are met, Christian schools will receive full budgeting and the doors will open for the establishment of additional private schools – something that will serve to increase polarization in the education system,” the report concluded.
The TAUB Center report also found inequality with regards to secondary education.
According to the report, there are four main tracks offered to students in secondary education: the main track, accounting for 60% of pupils, is the academic track, which is considered the most prestigious.
The other three tracks are technological: the engineering track (also considered prestigious), accounting for 15% of students, the technological track (16% of students) and the vocational track (10% of students).
The findings indicated that socioeconomic factors continue to affect student assignment to educational tracks.
According to the findings, Jewish students in the technological and vocational tracks generally come from lower socioeconomic groups and from weaker educational backgrounds. Among the Arab Israeli population, there has been a rise in the demand for technological education, as opposed to the traditional academic track.
The report further found that mobility between tracks is quite low.
The highest rates of matriculation qualification, the report found, come from the engineering track (82%). In the academic track, the share of those with a matriculation certificate stood at 70%, and in the vocational track, the share of those finishing secondary school with a matriculation certificate is 40%.
With regards to higher education, the report found that the share of students aged 18 to 34 increased from 9% in 1995 to 15% in 2011 – with a majority enrolled in academic colleges.
TAUB Center researcher Hadas Fuchs found that among young adults, women are better educated than men.
In looking at academics aged 31 to 34, Fuchs found that women outnumbered men in both the Jewish population – 49% of women compared to 42% of men – as well as in the Arab Israeli population – 21% of women compared to 18% of men.
The findings also indicated that young adults are beginning their undergraduate education and entering the labor force at a later age than in past, especially among men.