Low discipline levels in Israeli schools may translate into low intl test scores, report finds

The study also found that the average discipline level of a class has a strong impact on pupil achievement - the impact grows as class size increases.

January 11, 2017 17:04
3 minute read.
police lecture a class of elementary students

police lecture a class of elementary students. (photo credit: COURTESY ISRAEL POLICE)

Low levels of discipline in Israeli schools result in low international test scores, according to a report the Shoresh Institution for Socioeconomic Research released on Wednesday.

The study, conducted by Dr. Noam Gruber, aimed to answer the question: “Why are Israel’s PISA achievements so low?” The Program for International Student Assessment test, which has been administered every three years since 2000 in 72 countries, aims to assess education systems around the world by measuring 15-year-old students’ skills in literacy, math and science.

The latest results, released last year, found that Israeli students continue to lag behind their OECD counterparts.

According to the 2015 test results, Israeli students’ achievement in science stood at 467 points, compared to the OECD average of 493, ranking Israel in 40th place.

Similarly, in mathematics, the average OECD student outperforms the average Israeli student by 20 points, 490 to 470, putting Israel in 39th place.

So, too, in reading, Israeli students score significantly lower than their OECD counterparts, 479 compared to 493, ranking Israel in 37th place.

The Shoresh Institution report stated that Israel’s fundamental educational measures indicated potential for good test scores, as parents have relatively high levels of education, place great importance on the study of mathematics, and invest money and time in tutoring pupils outside the school framework.

Despite these positive attributes, which the study said are generally associated with scholastic success, Israel’s results on the international achievement exams are consistently among the lowest of all developed countries.

Furthermore, among developed countries, Israel has the highest rate of inequality with regard to PISA math test scores.

The report found that, contrary to popular belief, the gap in scores between the average for all participating countries and Israel is larger at the highest grade percentile than at the 91st percentile.

“There is no factual basis for the conventional wisdom ascribing Israeli pupils’ low achievement levels to the population’s weaker groups, while assuming that the People of the Book’s highest-achieving pupils are similar to their counterparts in other countries. At the highest grade percentiles – those of Israel’s top pupils – there is no narrowing of the gap,” Gruber wrote.

In fact, the opposite is true.

“The score achieved by pupils at Israel’s 91st percentile is 28 points lower than the mean 91st percentile score for all the developed countries. In the highest grade percentile, the gap between the developed countries and Israel rises to 42 points,” he found.

The study also found a positive relationship between maternal education levels and pupils’ educational achievements.

Yet, despite the fact that maternal education levels are very high in Israel, a fact that the study states should give a “distinct advantage” to Israel over the developed world, Israeli students continue to lag behind their peers.

As such, the study concluded that one of the major factors underlying Israeli pupils’ poor PISA test scores is the low level of discipline.

On the one hand, the study found that “nearly a third of Israeli pupils state that the sentence ‘Pupils do not listen to what the teacher says’ does not relate to them at all, or nearly at all. By contrast, fewer than a quarter of the pupils in the high-achieving countries believe that this is the case in their schools, while a fifth of the pupils in all countries feel this way.”

An objective measure also found that the percentage of Israeli pupils who were late to school at least three times in two weeks was almost double that of the percentage for all countries and more than double the percentage in the highest-achieving countries.

The study also found that the average discipline level of a class has a strong impact on pupil achievement – the impact grows as class size increases.

In other words, lax discipline has a stronger adverse effect on pupil achievement in large classes.

The study noted that this is of particular relevance to Israel, which is characterized by both large classes and low discipline levels.

As such, the report indicated that “raising Israel’s discipline level to the developed-country average would raise the country’s mean PISA score by 20 to 25 points, even without reducing class size.

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