Israel's education system does not provide equal learning opportunities for all students regardless of race, religion or social standing, a report released on Wednesday claims.
The report, compiled by the Adva Center for equality and social justice and entitled "Segregation, Inequality, and Weakened Leadership," bases its findings on statistics including class size and budget allotments, as well as academic achievement among the separate branches of Israeli schools. The report found glaring differences between poor and rich Israelis, Jewish and Arab students and Orthodox and secular institutions.
The report states that the government has allowed for the formation of two largely independent school systems; religious schools and big-city schools with a high percentage of wealthy students, thereby increasing the divide between pupils.
This fosters "natural selection" within the school system, the report concludes, in that the state allows wealthy parents to fund more and more of the operating costs of their children's schools, resulting in what amounts to a different public school system for children of the wealthy.
The report also takes issue with the different curriculums taught in each school system - curriculums largely determined by the financial donors of the institutions. The system is worsened, according to the report, by the fact that the Education Ministry is incapable of regulating the amount of money being raised by schools to pay for extra-curricular activities. According to the report, there is basically no uniform state curriculum.
Noga Dagan-Buzaglo, who worked on the report for Adva, said the organization feels the way to correct the Israeli educational approach "is to return to the days where the state was the only factor responsible for the curriculum and funding of schools."
Dagan-Buzaglo blamed what she called the decline in importance of education and the Education Ministry for politicians, saying the decline stood in stark contrast to earlier days in Israel when the Education Ministry was a prestigious and valued ministry to work for.
In addition, Dagan-Buzaglo said Israel should consider some sort of affirmative action to help poorer schools make up for the disparity in funding between them and schools attended by richer pupils.
The Adva Center is funded by the New Israel Fund.
The Education Ministry would not comment on the report on Wednesday, saying it would wait until it had studied the report to issue a response.
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