In only four years, Israeli pupils advanced leaps and bounds in math, science
and reading readiness, according to test results released on
Glaring gaps remain, however, between Jewish and Arab
According to the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and
Science Study (TIMSS) and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study
(PIRLS) tests, Israeli pupils were above average in all categories.
TIMSS tests were taken by fourth- and eighth-graders, and the PIRLS by
The most outstanding improvement was registered in the
mathematics section, where Israeli youngsters placed seventh out of 42
countries, after placing 24th in the previous test in 2007.
improved in all three categories.
They went from being the 25th to the
13th-ranked country in science, and went from 31st to 18th in reading
While Jewish pupils in Israel had an average score of 536 on
the math portion (well above the average of 467), Arab pupils scored 465, which
would place them in 21st place overall.
In the science portion Israel
placed 13th with an average of 516 points, well above the overall average of
477. The disparities remained, as Jews scored an average of 530 points, enough
to put them in ninth place if ranked separately, while Arabs scored 481, or the
equivalent of 21st place. While both were above the average, a wide gap
Possibly the largest discrepancy was in the reading readiness
section, where Israel ranked 18th.
While Arabs were able to take the test
in Arabic, they still scored only 479 points on average, below the overall
average of 512. This is at the same time that Jews scored 568 points, as high as
the second highest country on the list.
Jewish pupils on average were
among the top 10 in all three categories and notched up significant improvements
over the results four years ago.
The Abraham Fund Initiatives, an NGO
devoted to advancing cooperation between Jews and Arabs in Israel, said Tuesday
that “the results of the two tests present a picture of the gaps between the
Jewish and Arab education systems. These results are mainly based on the
improvements in the performance of Jewish students while at the same time Arab
students improved in a much [more] moderate fashion.”
They added that the
figures “are the result of unequal investment in the two education systems,” and
that the disparity should indicate the need for the government to allocate the
resources necessary to close these gaps.
When presenting the results,
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar said they illustrate a “revolution” in the
education system, and marked improvements across all socioeconomic levels.
“The accomplishments of Israeli student in these tests indicate a revolution. In
these tests Israeli students achieved the highest-ever results since they first
began participating in them in the late ’90s across every socioeconomic level
and were above the average in every ranking.”
Sa’ar also said the poor
results last time were in part due to the country’s longestever teachers’
The test also indicated gaps based on youngsters’ socioeconomic
background. Among poorer pupils, the math scores averaged 493, as opposed to 521
for middle class pupils and 565 for those at the top end of the socioeconomic
In science the scores were 491, 516 and 555, respectively, while
in reading readiness they were 542, 556 and 586.
Prof. Yossi Yonah, No.
20 on the Labor Party candidates list, said that while the results showed
improvements by Israeli youngsters, they also indicated that there were still
deep between rich and poor.
“We must not ignore the disturbing fact that
there are deep gaps between students based on their socioeconomic background,”
Yonah mentioned bagrut matriculation scores released a month
earlier, which he said led to similar conclusions, adding that the cutting of
national education budgets was largely to blame.
The TIMMS was taken in
May 2011, with 4,699 pupils from 151 schools across Israel taking part. The
PIRLs test was administered at the same time to 4,186 youngsters in 152 schools.
The Education Ministry said Tuesday that these schools were chosen by the
testing organization and that they did not include the haredi school
TIMSS and PIRLS are both run by the International Study Center at
According to the center, the tests are used to inform
curriculum development and are a global, cooperative enterprise involving more
than 60 countries. The first TIMSS test was held in 1995 and it is administered
every four years in countries across the world.
The PIRLS was first
conducted in 2001.