OECD: Israel big spender on education, students receive less

"We are leading a series of significant reforms, but the system faces major and important challenges, which require closing budgetary gaps."

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September 11, 2019 00:15
3 minute read.
OECD: Israel big spender on education, students receive less

A mother takes a selfie with her first-grade daughter on the first day of school. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Israeli expenditure on education as a share of GDP may now be among the highest in the developed world, but Israel still spends significantly less per student than most other countries, according to a report published on Tuesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Israel spends the equivalent of 6% of its GDP on primary to tertiary (post-secondary) education, the annual “Education at a Glance” 2019 report revealed. Total expenditure as a share of GDP increased by 8% between 2010 and 2016, the highest across all OECD countries.

Despite increased expenditure, Israel still spends less on education per student ($8,891) than most other OECD countries, which spend an average of $10,502 per student. Spending per student on tertiary education – including universities and colleges – stands at $11,153, significantly below the OECD average of $15,556.

National expenditure on primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education – primarily vocational training – increased by some 42% between 2010 and 2016, compared with just 5% on average across OECD countries.

Spending per student ($8,365), however, still remains below the OECD average of $9,357. Here, the failure to catch up with the OECD average is explained by the 14% increase in students during the same period, while the number of students remained stable across OECD countries. Israel is on course, the report said, to catch up with the OECD average if it keeps increasing its spending per student.

The report also revealed that Israel has one of the highest early childhood education enrollment rates in the developed world. Among three- to five-year-old children, enrollment increased from 80% in 2005 to almost 100% in 2017. The increase is largely explained by the expansion of free education to the age of three, as recommended by the Trajtenberg Committee.

Some 47% of children under two years old were also enrolled in early childhood education in 2017, almost double the average (24%) across OECD countries. Approximately 31% of children under the age of one are also enrolled in education, more than three times the OECD average of 9%. Overall, 56% of children under three in Israel attend early childhood education settings, compared with 36% on average across the OECD.

The OECD report also detailed that many governments are under pressure to recruit and train new teachers in the coming years as a large share of educators reach retirement age in the next decade. The situation in Israel, however, is less pressing, as the share of teachers age 50 or over currently stands at 26%, significantly below the OECD average of 36%.

Teachers’ salaries have increased significantly since 2005, the report stated, largely due to the implementation of education reforms.

Salaries have increased by 56% in pre-primary education, 40% in primary education, 52% in lower-secondary education and 50% in upper-secondary education. This compares with average OECD salary increases of 10% in primary education, 9% in lower-secondary education and 6% in upper-secondary education.

Historically, Israel boasted an above-average share of tertiary-educated adults, but the OECD states that once-significant gaps are now much smaller among younger adults.

In 2018, 48% of 55 to 64-year-old Israelis possessed a tertiary degree, compared to just 7% on average across OECD countries. The gap has closed among 25 to 34-year-olds, however, with 48% of Israelis completing a tertiary degree, compared to 44% on average across the OECD.

The unemployment rate for tertiary-educated adults in 2018 was 4% in Israel, compared with 6% on average across OECD countries. Tertiary-educated Israelis earn 56% more than upper-secondary graduates, on par with the OECD average.
“The latest OECD statistics indicate a positive trend in education investment and teacher salaries,” said Education Minister Rafi Peretz following the publication of the report. “This is welcome and worthwhile, but at the same time the data remains disturbing.

Investment per student in Israel remains low in comparison with the world’s students. This is a gap that needs to be addressed.
“Our students are smart and talented, and it is our duty to provide them with all the tools and resources needed to enable them to cope in the job market, into which graduates of the Far East and developed European countries will also enter. We are leading a series of significant reforms, but the system faces major and important challenges, which require closing budgetary gaps.”




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