Israel sees improvement by poor students, but still lags behind OECD

According to the report, the majority of students who perform poorly in The Program for International Student Assessment come from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds.

February 1, 2018 19:33
2 minute read.
Students sit in a library at the Ariel University Center in the West Bank settlement of Ariel

Students sit in a library at the Ariel University Center in the West Bank settlement of Ariel. (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)


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Israel’s share of strong students from poor backgrounds has significantly increased since 2006, but still lags behind the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development average, according to a paper released by the organization this week.

The study offered an analysis of which countries’ and schools’ disadvantaged students succeed, based on the results of the Program for International Student Assessment in 2015.

The PISA exam, which has been administered every three years since 2000 in 72 countries, aims to assess educational systems by measuring 15-year-old students’ skills in literacy, math and science.

According to the report, the majority of students who perform poorly in PISA come from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Despite this, a portion of disadvantaged students are able to “beat the odds” working against them and excel in PISA – these students are known as “academically resilient.”

Israel is the country with the largest range of grades in the world, the PISA 2015 found, with large gaps between students of high socioeconomic standing and those from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

Furthermore, only 13.9% of Israeli students were “top performers” (students receiving the highest level scores) in at least one subject, compared to the OECD average of 15.3%.

In contrast, Israel had a much higher rate of “low achievers” in all three subjects – 20.2% – compared to the OECD average of 13%.

The 2015 PISA data showed that on average across OECD countries, only 25% of disadvantaged students scored at Level 3 or above in all PISA subjects in 2015, and can thus be considered academically resilient.

In Israel, however, only 15.8% scored at Level 3 or above, up from only 10% in 2006, but still lagging behind the OECD average.

In comparison, countries such as Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway and Singapore, saw this figure jump to more than 30% of disadvantaged students.

In sharp contrast, in Algeria, the Dominican Republic, Kosovo, Peru and Tunisia, less than 1% of the disadvantaged students who were eligible to participate in the PISA 2015 test performed at least at level 3.

According to the report, PISA data collected for over a decade (in 2006, 2009, 2012 and 2015) showed that out of the 51 education systems for which the share of resilient students can be compared between 2006 and 2015, 19 saw increases in the proportion of resilient disadvantaged students; nine saw the share of these students shrink.

Among OECD countries, the increase was particularly pronounced in Germany, Israel, Japan, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain, the report stated.

Despite the positive trend, Israel’s rates of inequality in education remain among the highest in the OECD, and the Education Ministry has acknowledged this as one of the major problems affecting the education system.

The OECD report found that with regards to Israel, the factors that most affect the likelihood of success among disadvantaged students include: the ratio of computers available to students, the number of extracurricular activities in schools, and a classroom climate conducive to learning.

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