After last week’s release of Israeli pupils’ high scores on international
standardized tests, a reassessment of the data shows some problems remain with
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
The most outstanding improvement was recorded in the
mathematics section where Israeli students ranked 7th out of 42 participating
countries, whereas during the previous tests in 2007, they only placed
The results also showed progress in the other two subjects tested:
Israel was the 13thranked country in science, compared to 25th last time, and
went from 31st to 18th in reading.
While presenting the results,
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar said they illustrate a “revolution” in the
“In these tests, Israeli students achieved the
highestever results since they first began participating in them in the late
1990s across every socioeconomic level and were above the average in every
ranking,” he said.
Sa’ar also said the poor results of the previous tests
were in part due to the country’s longest-ever teachers’ strike.
taking a close look at the data, however, one notices some significant elements
that could put a question mark on the credibility of the results.
participation figures published by the International Study Center of the School
of Education at Boston College, which administers the exams, showed that almost
a quarter of the Israeli students who were eligible to take the tests didn’t do
During an Education Ministry press conference last Tuesday in which
the results were announced, it was also explained that the haredi school system,
which represents one of the country’s weakest, was not included in the
Education professionals who did not wish to be named said that
they believe the data call into question the credibility of the
The Education Ministry responded to the claims, saying they
constituted “a purposeful effort to minimize the tremendous achievements of
Israeli students” and continued in an official statement, “The ministry is very
proud of the achievements of the education staff and the pupils of
The Jewish Funders Network’s STEM education conference in New
York two weeks ago, which focused on scientific education in Israel, showed that
the country still faces problems in that domain. Large gaps in achievement
remain between Israeli students and those in other countries participating in
the OECD math and science PISA evaluation, and the percentage of students
achieving very high scores on that same test is also much lower in Israel than
in other countries.