OECD gives Israel mixed report card on education

Despite low primary-grades ranking, the country remains one of the world’s most educated countries.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett (left) and Education Ministry director-general Shmuel Abuhav announce the ‘Give Me Five!’ reform to improve how English is taught in school. (photo credit: YOSSI ZAMIR)
Education Minister Naftali Bennett (left) and Education Ministry director-general Shmuel Abuhav announce the ‘Give Me Five!’ reform to improve how English is taught in school.
(photo credit: YOSSI ZAMIR)
Israel spends a higher percentage of GDP on its education than most of the developed world. But it also spends among the lowest in the 35 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries per student and for pay per teacher.
The OECD released its 456-page “Education at a Glance 2017” report on Tuesday. The comprehensive statistical report used data from its 35 developed and 11 partner countries to reveal the current state of education. Topics included such items as student performance, classroom size and teacher status.
In 2014, Israel’s educational expenditure amounted to 5.8% of the gross national product, which was slightly above the OECD average of 5.2% of GDP.
The report shows that in 2014, Israel spent an average of $7,759 per student annually for all services across all levels of education, compared to the OECD average of $10,759.
According to the report, $6,833 was spent per student on Israeli primary education in 2014, while the OECD average was $8,733. For secondary education, the average was $6,699 compared to the OECD average was $10,106. Higher education spending in Israel was $12,989, compared to the OECD average of $16,143.
The report also showed that Israel on average paid their teachers significantly lower salaries, especially at the start of their careers. According to information received in 2015, the average primary school teacher’s starting salary was $19,507, while the OECD average was $30,838. Salaries after 15 years increased to $29,718 in Israel, compared to the OECD average of $42,844.
However, it should be noted that Israeli teachers work significantly fewer hours than their OECD counterparts. On average, total working time for teachers averaged 1,263 hours in Israel, while the OECD average was 1,611 hours.
The report also stated that since 2010, teacher salaries in Israel have increased significantly at all educational levels, due to a series of reforms in the education system.
The report notes the “New Horizon” reform – which began in 2008 and was almost fully implemented by 2014 – increased salaries for pre-primary, primary and high-school teachers.
The report showed that between 2010 and 2015, among countries for which data are available, Israel recorded one of the largest increases in salaries for 25- to 64-year-old high-school teachers.
Education Ministry director-general Shmuel Abuhav said: “The OECD report points to many measurable improvements, mainly teacher salaries. Quality education begins with quality teachers, and the intelligent use of resources enables us to improve the quality of instruction in Israel.”
“The report shows that the students receive more teaching hours, and the teachers receive more reward for their investments,” he said. “We intend to strengthen the teachers both young and old, because ultimately they are the backbone of the education system.”
Teachers Union secretary-general Yaffa Ben-David said in response to the report: “It’s hard to reconcile that teachers in Israel make less than 70% of the OECD average.”
“We welcome the improvement. However, it is not enough,” she said. “Teachers’ salaries are still significantly lower than countries. Despite the improvement trend in wages, the average salary of a teacher in Israeli primary education is 69% of the salary of his colleagues in the OECD. This is a figure we can not put up with, which proves beyond doubt that the improvement is far from enough.”
The report showed Israel’s average classroom size was 28 students for 2015. The current average for the OECD was 21 students.
Israel ranked eighth in graduation rates, with 92% graduating in all levels of education, making it one of the most educated populations in the OECD.
With Israel’s mandatory early childhood education program beginning at age three, Israel and the United Kingdom had the highest enrollment of three-year-olds, reported to be 100%, compared to the OECD average of 78%.
Unlike previous years, the 2017 edition of this report focused on higher education. In that category, too, results showed that Israel has one of the most educated populations among OECD countries.
In 2016, 47% of 25 to 34-year-old Israelis held a bachelor’s degree or higher. The OECD average was 43%.
According to the report: “Typical gender imbalances in education are even more prevalent in Israel,” showing that women perform better than men at higher levels of education but are less likely to enroll in scientific fields and suffer poorer employment outcomes.”
Women in Israel are more likely to enroll in higher education, making up 57% of entrants, compared to the OECD average of 54%.
The report showed that women college graduates in Israel earn 30% less than similarly qualified men, compared to the average 26% average pay gap across the OECD countries in 2014.
However, Israeli women are more likely than their OECD counterparts to be employed in hi-tech related fields, with an average of 28%, compared to 19%.