Ra'anana has jumped to the lead among cities in the Sharon area in the number of students who earned matriculation certificates in the past academic year, while Kfar Saba recorded a drastic decline and fell from first to third place, according to figures released by the Education Ministry. The annual figures are widely seen as a benchmark to measure the success of a local authority's education system.
However, the South Sharon Regional Council, which covers all the moshavim in the area, recorded the best figures in the Sharon district. And despite the fall in Kfar Saba and Herzliya, the Sharon figures are still well ahead of those in the Tel Aviv and Haifa areas, according to reports in local newspapers.
Some 70.91% of Ra'anana's 1,124 students in 12th grade succeeded in obtaining their bagrut (matriculation) certificates in the 2004-2005 academic year, a slight rise of 0.2% from the previous year, according to the weekly Tzomet Hasharon. Although this brings Ra'anana into first place among Sharon cities, it is still less than two years ago when Ra'anana's bagrut rate was 73.16%.
By contrast, Kfar Saba continued its significant decline in the number of students matriculating. From a high of 74.52% in the 2002-2003 academic year, the city fell to 71.74% in 2003- 2004, and to 68.64% in 2004-2005 - a total fall of almost 6% in the past few years.
"In Kfar Saba we have a good education system overall, but the significant fall in the number of those entitled to bagrut certificates should light up not a red light but a red projector on the earnings of the city and especially the mayor," head of the city's parents' committee, Sigal Kuchman, told Tzomet Hasharon. "In my opinion, this fall is a result of the broad cuts made to education budgets in recent years, insufficient investment by the city in elementary and junior high schools, slackening discipline, management by putting out fires with no long-term planning, overcrowded classrooms and a lack of support within school walls for excellent students."
The head of the city's education portfolio, Avinoam Granot, said the figures "do not make me happy," but it was important to view them in line with figures across Israel. Nevertheless, he said he was going to work to increase the city's high school education budget for the coming academic year with the aim of providing greater subsidies for matriculation courses.
In second place among Sharon cities was Ramat Hasharon, with 70.33% of 12th graders passing their bagrut exams, a rise of almost 1% from the previous year. Hod Hasharon came in fourth with 68.48%, a 2% rise from the previous year. Herzliya was fifth with 68.41%, a fall of almost 2% from the previous year. A spokesman for Mayor Yael German said the mayor was disappointed with the results and had asked for clarification, especially because the city had invested large amounts in education.
The best figures in the Sharon area came from the South Sharon Regional Council, with 71.19%. Just a year previously, the figure was only 64.02%. A spokesman for the council said the dramatic improvement was the result of "continued efforts and long-term investment."
Meanwhile, in Tel Aviv, just 61.78% of 12th grade students matriculated in 2004-2005, a drastic fall of 5% from the previous year, according to the local weekly Tel Aviv.
Several schools were notable for their successes, in particular Ironi Daled, which reached a record 93%, compared with 90% the previous year. Also successful were Shevach Mofet with 86% and the Herzliya Gymnasia with 85%.
Despite these successes, the number of students earning a bagrut in the city fell from 66.72% in 2003-2004 to 61.78% in 2004-2005.
In Arab Jaffa, the fall was more drastic - some 11%: from 37.16% in 2003-2004 to 26.78% in 2004-2005. The absolute numbers were also wildly different - in Tel Aviv some 2,171 students obtained their certificates, while in Jaffa just 42 students sat for their examinations.
In Haifa, the number of matriculating students fell by more than 3%: from 67% in 2003-2004 to 63.67% in 2004-2005. A spokesman for the city told Yediot Haifa that the figures were not as bad as they appeared and that Haifa was still in first place among Israel's large cities, ahead of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Beersheba and Rishon Lezion. The spokesman said the city simply needed "to pay attention that the falling trend does not continue." He added that the cities that did better than Haifa were smaller, wealthier towns and settlements.
Across Israel, the number of students obtaining matriculation certificates in 2004-2005 fell by about 2.5%, to 51.7% nationally. The best figures were recorded in the Jezreel Valley Regional Council (75.86%), Maccabim-Reut (75.74%), and Shoham (73.34%).