OECD report finds Israeli classes over-crowded, teachers underpaid

Israel mentioned at the bottom when the issue is educational programs that join classes with on-hand experience to ensure future employment.

FIRST DAY BACK at Tel Aviv’s Gabrieli Carmel School, September 1, 2020 (photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)
FIRST DAY BACK at Tel Aviv’s Gabrieli Carmel School, September 1, 2020
(photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)
Israel has some of the most overcrowded school classes in the developed world, according to the OECD “Education at a Glance” report, issued on Tuesday.
Among elementary school children, classes are 25% more crowded than the OECD average, with 26.4 children per class compared to the average of 21.1.
The gap remains in high schools, with an Israeli class having on average 28.2 children compared to 23.3 for all OECD countries
The data is true for the previous year, and thanks to the new COVID-19 “capsules” method employed by the Education Ministry, each class now has 18 pupils per capsule.
The capsule method is currently used for fifth grade and higher.
Kindergarten teachers earn 3% more than their colleagues in other countries but this seems to be an exception to the rule, as elementary and high-school teachers earn 6% less.
Israeli children study 958 hours per year, compared to 804 hours in the rest of the OECD. Despite the long hours, the children score poorly on international tests such as the one issued by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2018, which found that Israel leads the world in gaps between the various groups that compose its society.
Arab-Israeli students, the PISA study found last year, are at the bottom of all OECD students.
China was at the top for reading skills, math and science in 2018.
“Don’t forget, most of the haredi [ultra-Orthodox] children don’t even study the material and are not included in the international tests – and they’re the fastest growing group in the country,” Shoresh Foundation president and Tel Aviv University Prof. Dan Ben-David told The Jerusalem Post. “Had we tested the haredi kids, Israel would have done a lot worse.”
But one should be careful when dealing with the data being presented, Ben-David said.
“We actually spent more money on education this year than defense, for the first time in our history” he said. “So the issue isn’t lack of money, it’s how we spend that money.
“Israeli children receive more instruction hours than other kids in the OECD,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean teachers teach more hours. Teachers work five days a week, kids are at school for six days. Children study more because they get more teachers teaching them, not because they have a teacher who is doing overtime.
“If you check how much teachers here are paid per hour it’s actually more than teachers in the OECD,” he said. “It’s just that teachers elsewhere teach more hours and so get higher monthly paychecks.”
He said Israel has more children per capita than most OECD countries, yet education expenditures aren’t as high. Looking at all these factors, Israel would be an average OECD nation in terms of resources allocated to education, but its students have very low achievement levels in the core subjects.
The report placed Israel next to Estonia as a nation with few programs (30%) that offer studies and on-hand training to ensure future employment, especially when compared to Finland or Austria (80%). Those countries enjoy the highest employment rates for adults in the developed world, the report said.
Such vocational training programs focus on construction and engineering, which are vital for growth in any economy, but especially during COVID-19.
Education Minister Yoav Gallant called the national education system “the chief engine” of the economy and “a condition to it being a prosperous country and an advanced society.”
He said the ministry will invest NIS 1.2 billion to improve online education options in schools as well as offering children who don’t have a computer at home the chance to borrow one from their school library.
About 20% of the nation’s children won’t have a computer in the near future despite the best efforts on that front, because there is not enough of a budget and the delivery process will take time.
The OECD report is similar in its findings to the one it published last year.
Israel invests more than most OECD nations in education, yet spends far less on the students themselves. An Israeli kindergarten child gets 35% less than an OECD toddler, and when entering first grade, 11% less, N12 reported last year.
In a lecture in Jerusalem last month, Ben-David joked that there is one thing the OECD measured that underlies all that is bad and all that is good in the Israeli spirit.
“The OECD asks children if they understand even the most difficult subjects in math,” he said. “Israeli children, whose achievement levels are the lowest in the developed world, have the highest percentage of students responding that they understand the material. It’s an indication of our overconfidence, even arrogance, that we’re sure we know everything. But it’s also an indication of the confidence that we have in ourselves.
 “Imagine,” he said, “if these children, with the highest self-confidence in the developed world, actually knew the material. The sky’s the limit, as we could take this mental attitude of daring confidence, which is basically our cultural DNA, and actually back it up with knowledge. What amazing things these children could do – and the heights to which they could take our country.”