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State of child report: Nearly half of children not eligible for bagrut
By LIDAR GRAVÉ-LAZI AND GREER FAY CASHMAN
29/12/2013
President receives annual statistical report on children, says neglect of children is intolerable, worst possible sin.
 
In the school year of 2011/2012, more than half of all 17-year-olds were not eligible to receive a bagrut (matriculation) certificate.

This was the finding of the annual statistical report that the National Council for the Child released on Sunday.

The bagrut eligibility figure stood at 49.8 percent, up from 48.1% in 2010/2011 but still outnumbered by those who were ineligible. Meanwhile, 55% of teachers of all grades said they didn’t know whether their students prepared homework or not.

Additionally, according to the report, the number of children studying within the state educational system went down from 74.2% to 52.2%, though there was a marked increase in students enrolled in the state-religious and ultra-Orthodox educational system (from 25.8% to 47.8%).

The report, comprised of statistics from the Central Bureau of Statistics, government ministries and nonprofit organizations, presented a picture of the state of the child in Israel considering many factors, including education, health, poverty, abuse and criminal activity.

According to the findings of the report, by the end of 2012 there were 2,626,400 children living in Israel, comprising 32.9% of the population.

Between 1970 and 2012 the number of children in Israel nearly doubled, while the number of Muslim children more than tripled.

The report showed that in 2012, 33.7% of all children – meaning more than one out of every three – were living in poverty, a total of 885,000 children.

In the past decade or so there was a dramatic increase of over 60% in the number of children living below the poverty line.

The results also showed that in 2012, only 5.3% of poor children were able to escape poverty, compared to 10.5% in 2000 – this can be attributed to government cutbacks in transfer payments and tax policies that reduce poverty.

Poverty was more common among Arab children than Jews in 2012, with 67.9% of Arab children living below the poverty line, compared to 22.9% of Jewish children and 26.1% of children of Jewish immigrants to Israel.

Large gaps were also reported in the geographic dispersal of poverty in Israel, with the Jerusalem district and the North reporting 59.4% and 49.4% (respectively) of children living in poverty, while Tel Aviv reported 23.7% and the Center district reported 15.9%.

In comparison to the national average of 35.6%, Netanya (73.2%), Bnei Brak (62.9%) and Jerusalem (61.7%) had the highest percentages of children living below the poverty line, while Rishon Lezion and Tel Aviv had the lowest, with 9.2% and 12.4% respectively.

During the 2012/2013 school year, 2,187,296 children were enrolled in the education system, including 1,565,434 (71.9%) in the Jewish sector and 610,410 (27.9%) in the Arab sector.

In the previous school year, there had been a marked decrease across the board in students reporting drinking alcohol, using drugs or bringing weapons to school.

The percentage of students who drank beer, a Breezer or Smirnoff Ice once in their life decreased from 34% of 7-9th graders in the 2008/09 school year to 24% in 2011/12; and from 59% of 10-11th graders to 52%.

Similarly, the percentage of students who tried marijuana decreased from 4% among 7-9th graders in 2008/09 to 2% among the same grades in 2011/12; and 7% of 10-11th graders to 5%.

Between the 2008/09 and 2010/11 school years there was a decrease in the percentage of students who suffered some form of violence – whether verbal, physical, or digital. Only 32% of students said they would report a case of violence to one of their teachers – 23% in the Jewish sector and 58% in the Arab sector.

Eight percent of students in grades 7-9 reported in 2012/2013 that they were victims of violence from a teacher or staff at school.

The percentage of Arab students who reported such incidents were 2 or 3 times higher than those of Jewish students.

This divide applied also to violence in general, as 67.7% of Arab children reported they were the victim of some form of violence, compared to 48.5%, or nearly half, of Jewish children.

In addition, 17.6% of children reported they had been sexually abused – with nearly half of these children, 46.5%, reporting that they had been assaulted more than once.

In 83.1% of the cases, the assaulter was male, and in 75.3% of the cases the children reported they knew the assaulter.

Of the 14.1% of children who reported that they were physically abused, 78.5% of the abusers were family members.

Children sexually abused who are known to have reported the assault to some authority figure stand at 68.2%, while 63.5% of physically abused children reported the assault.

Between 2008 and 2012 there was a 57.6% rise in the number of court cases involving youth, from 8,994 to 14,171, of which 11,436 were criminal cases.

However, when compared to 2000 there was an overall reported decrease of 30.7% in the number of youth involved in criminal court cases.

Since 1998, the number of court cases where a youth was the victim increased by 31.3% from 6,370 cases in 1998 to 8,361 cases in 2012, with 71% of the cases occurring outside the family, and 29% of the cases brought against someone within the child’s family.

The report showed a decrease in the number of child fatalities in car accidents in 2012, from 2,939 child fatalities aged 0-14 in 2011 to 2,657 in 2012 – a 10% decrease.

Of the 574 children injured crossing the street, 61% were crossing on cross walks.

Over the course of the past 20 years, there was a 69.7% decrease in the number of drivers under 18 that were involved in a car accident, from 2,535 in 1992 to 769 in 2012, the majority were male.

However, the number of police citations (including court summons) for 17 year olds driving under the influence increased from 1,572 in 2006 to 4,834 in 2011.

The report showed that 83.9% of children ages 7 to 11, 83.3% aged 12 to 14, and 97.1% of children ages 15-17 surf the web, and roughly half of all children aged 12 to 17 reported that they spend between 3 to 5 hours surfing the web every day or almost every day.

Nearly 90% of youth said they spend time on social networks and more than 80% of children aged 13 to 18 said they have a Facebook account.

Thirty-four percent of children said they are friends with their parents on Facebook, and 27% said they and their teachers are Facebook friends.

The findings also indicated that 27.3% of children in grades 1-9 are overweight. Furthermore, there was a drastic decrease over the past decade in the percentage of junior-high students who eat fruits and vegetables on a daily basis, from 85% in 1998 to 42.9% in 2011.

According to the report, the older the age group, the less time children spend engaged in physical activities.

Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, executive director of The National Council for the Child, presented the report to President Shimon Peres, who declared that the neglect of children is the worst possible sin.

“We can’t keep on making this mistake.We have to give children the kind of future to which they are entitled,” Peres said after hearing Kadman recite some of the shocking statistics contained in the report.

In presenting the report, Kadman reminded Peres that when receiving the report last year, the president had asked him to come back with a more favorable report this year.

“We tried, but we didn’t succeed, although there are a few points of light,” he said, noting some positive trends, including a decrease in infant mortality and the increase in bagrut certificates.

Because education is not free, he said, parents who want their children to succeed pay for private tutors or for extracurricular studies.

The children of parents who do not have the wherewithal to pay for these educational extras too often lag behind.

Even youth movements that used to free have become a costly investment to parents who want their children to have community oriented values, Kadman said.

He also implied that Israeli schools were unpleasant experiences for the youngsters enrolled in them. “Israeli children more than those of any other country within the orbit of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) dislike school,” he said.

Noam Ben-Harush, a youth leader and 10th grade student at the Reut School in Jerusalem said that after reading the report, she was shocked to discover the number of children who had been sexually abused.

She charged adults with making insufficient use of people in youth groups who could talk to their peer generation, warn them of what to be aware of and help them at times of distress when they had been assaulted or simply when they felt that there had been no response to their needs.

“They’ll open up to us more than to adults. It’s much easier for them to talk to people around their own age,” she said.

Peres observed that there is confusion between leisure time and entertainment.

Leisure time can also be used for work or study, he said, and suggested that both be combined so that high school students could spend two hours a day working for a hi-tech enterprise.
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