The Education Ministry must enact real reforms to lower the high school dropout rate, Knesset State Control Committee chairman Amnon Cohen (Shas) said Tuesday.
The committee reviewed a State Comptroller report on the topic, but found that the estimated numbers of dropouts range from 4,000-40,000.
Cohen said schools should be penalized for not reporting dropouts in order to continue receiving funding for the student who stopped attending classes.
“Instead of populist reforms, the education minister must revolutionize its policy on dropouts,” Cohen said. “The Comptroller examined only three municipalities, but this is a broad, nationwide problem.
The Education Ministry wakes up every morning to a new reform, but doesn’t take care of the youth who are left behind.”
According to Cohen, this is an ongoing failure by the government, which is unable to coordinate the various offices meant to find and help dropouts.
“Every child is an entire world,” he added.
According to Shmuel Golan, representing Comptroller Joseph Shapira, there are 24,000 youths aged 15-17 who were not in an educational framework in 2012. In 2011, there were 30,000 people aged 13-25 who were neither studying, working nor in the army.
“Truancy officers have the initial responsibility and the most important job in taking are of dropouts. Their salaries should be increased and their status bolstered,” Golan said.
MK Orit Struck (Bayit Yehudi) said that students in religious- Zionist boarding schools drop out and their principals do not report them, so as to continue to receive funding.
“We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of shekels that could be used to take care of children who dropped out because of difficult family situations, traumas, learning disabilities or mental problems.
Some leave school because of questions of faith, youthful rebellion or bad social influences,” she explained.
MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) said that while in the general public only five percent of pupils drop out, in the Arab population, the number jumps to 17 percent. He warned that teenagers, especially dropouts, join organized crime.
“The Education Ministry should set goals and a schedule for reducing the number of dropouts in the Arab population,” MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) said.
Irit Biran, representing the Education Ministry, says the ministry is working with the Welfare Ministry to coordinate efforts in this matter.
Most schools have electronic attendance records, she said, and the Education Ministry automatically cuts funding when a student drops out. In addition, the ministry plans to form a committee to deal with Arab dropouts.
Aharon Shevy, of the Welfare Ministry, said only 4,000 teens are lacking any educational framework and that he has about 400 employees tracking down dropouts, who are then sent to care centers.