Israelis are among the highest educated in the developed world, but the country still lags behind with regards to gender equality in education, according to an OECD report released Tuesday.
Education at a Glance 2015 indicated that 49 percent of Israelis have attained higher education degrees, well above the OECD average of 34% and the second highest rate of all member countries. In addition, 85% of the population ages 25-64 has completed upper secondary education, above the average of 76%.
Despite these figures, however, the report found that the gender gap in higher education is pronounced in Israel with 53% of women between the ages of 25-64 achieving higher education degrees and just 44% of men, compared with the OECD average of 35% and 32%, respectively.
The findings further indicated that for all levels of education, women in Israel earn less than men with the same level of education – 72% of earnings compared with the OECD average of 80%. Furthermore, women with tertiary degrees earn just 63% of men with the same level of education – 10% less than the OECD average.
In contrast, the findings indicated that the earnings gap between older and younger tertiary-educated workers was one of the smallest – 8% compared to the OECD average of 36%.
The report also referred to the results of the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test, administered to 15- and 16-year-old students in more than 70 countries every three years, highlighting gender gaps in testing achievements – a sweeping global trend that has also affected Israel.
While The Jerusalem Post reported on the findings of the PISA exam in December 2013, indicating that students still lag behind their peers in the rest of the OECD in mathematics, reading and science, the current report further expanded on gender imbalances.
According to the findings, in 2012, 14% of boys and 9% of girls (OECD average) did not attain the PISA baseline level of proficiency in any of the three core subjects measured, compared to 24% of Israeli boys and 13% of Israeli girls.
Some 24% of Israeli students who took the exam were considered “weak” in reading, compared to only 17% in the rest of the OECD. In math, the Israeli rate stood at 34%, compared to 23% in the OECD.
In science, the rate was 29% in Israel and 18% in the rest of the participating countries.
The report also found that Israel spends one of the highest percentages of its gross domestic product (GDP) – some 6% in 2012 – on education, higher than the OECD average of 5.2%. Of this, the country spends 4.4% on primary and secondary education, also above the OECD average of 3.7% and 1.6% on higher education, on par with the OECD average of 1.5%.
However, despite these promising figures, the annual expenditure per student remained much lower than the average of OECD countries, with Israel spending $6,931 per student on primary education in 2012, compared with the OECD average of $8,247. With regards to secondary education in 2012, Israel spent $5,689 per student (a slight decrease from 2011), compared with the OECD average of $9, 518 per student. In 2012, Israel spent $12,338 per student in higher education, compared with the OECD average of $15,028.
The reason for this anomaly, according to the report, stems from the simple fact that Israel has a higher proportion of students among the general population, 33% compared to 24% for the OECD average.
Due to the recent expansion of the Compulsory Education Law, which mandates that all children from the age of three must attend school, Israel has 100% enrollment of three-year-olds and 45% of two-year-olds in early-childhood programs, well above the OECD averages of 74% and 39%, respectively.
In addition, the report found that the average class size in the country stands at 27 pupils in primary education and 28 pupils in lower secondary education, larger than the OECD average of 21 and 24 pupils, respectively.
“The education report of the OECD is the world’s bible for education among developed countries. For Israel, it is also a report about our future security because only a leading and excellent education system will let us deal with the multiple and intensifying challenges and threats,” former Likud MK Carmel Shama- Hacohen, Israel’s envoy to the OECD, said Tuesday.
According to Shama-Hacohen, the report shows points that “allow for pride and satisfaction” alongside challenges that “don’t allow you to rest for a moment.”
“The delegation led by me under the guidance of the Education Ministry works to enhance cooperation with the OECD on education and the decision to hold the organization’s 2016 education conference in Jerusalem is also a state achievement and a statement about the priorities of Israel vis-a-vis the OECD,” he said.