English language education suffering in national-religious sector, study finds

Children in the state religious school system performed worse than their peers.

February 14, 2016 01:44
2 minute read.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett with his family on the first day of school, September 1, 2015

Education Minister Naftali Bennett with his family on the first day of school, September 1, 2015. (photo credit: COURTESY EDUCATION MINISTRY)


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Academic attainment in English language education of students in the national-religious school system is significantly weaker than in the nonreligious system, a study conducted by the Ne’emanei Torah Va’avodah think tank and lobbying group has revealed.

Children in the state religious school system performed worse than their peers in the state secular system in elementary school and high school and on the pre-university Psychometric exam, the study found.

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NTA’s study found that in the results of the 2013 Meitzav national standardized tests for grade 5, there was a gap of 33 points, on average, in English language scores between the secular and national-religious schools system in favor of the secular school system.

Pupils in the national-religious schools also performed worse than their nonreligious peers, but by smaller amounts, in Science and Technology, 14 points, Hebrew, 10 points, and Math, 4 points.

In 8th grade, the gap in English language academic attainment increased, with nonreligious pupils scoring on average 41 points more than pupils in the national-religious system, and 18 points higher in Science and Technology, 10 points for Math and 4 points for Hebrew.

National-religious pupils also studied fewer units of English. In 2013, 46.1 percent of students in the state secular school system took the maximum five units of English, compared to 36.5% in the state religious system.

Similarly, 19.2% of pupils in the national-religious system studied just three units of English in 2013, compared to 17.8% of pupils in the general school system.

The gaps were worst in results for the Psychometric test, used by institutions of higher education to screen applicants.

Between 2000 and 2012, the average score of graduates of the general state school system was 114.6 points for English language, while the average for graduates of the national-religious schools system was 102.5 points.

Some national-religious schools do not teach any English at all, NTA’s study also found.

According to the study, the reasons for the gap in achievement in English language are mainly cultural, and involve a lesser likelihood of pupils in the national religious system to watch foreign films or listen to English-language music.

“Exactly because of this issue, the research shows the necessity of strengthening English language instruction in the national-religious school system in a way that does not conflict with the educational perspective of the national-religious school administration,” the study states.

NTA director Shmuel Shetach said that English language education was critical to gaining access to quality professions, noting that universities are highly unlikely to accept a student who took just three units of English for the high school diploma, while highly desirable course such as medicine and others require at least five units of English, which only a third of national-religious pupils obtain.

“We are happy that during the last year, the issue of English [language education] has begun to get significant momentum among many institutions in the religious education system,” said Shetach.

“However, the findings of the research indicate an entrenched problem which the national-religious society needs to deal with in a range of educational and values- based ways.”

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