Just under 3,000 more pupils stayed in school in 2007 rather than dropping out, according to statistics released by the Education Ministry late last week, a 2.2-percent increase from the year before. In addition, there was a very slight rise (0.4%) in those eligible to take matriculation exams, to 46.3% or 53,325. Education Minister Yuli Tamir lauded principals for focusing on enabling their pupils to complete 12 years of schooling rather than solely on the popular goal of achieving a higher matriculation eligibility rate at their school. She said efforts by principals not to leave kids by the wayside were very important. When the numbers were broken down by gender, they showed about 10% more girls were qualifying for the exam than boys. Among religious students, though not including haredim, eligibility percentages were just slightly higher than the general population. The numbers for immigrants showed that about half were eligible to take the matriculation exams. The ministry said comparisons with previous years were not relevant for immigrants because the criteria for assistance on the tests had changed last year. When divided by population sectors, more Jewish pupils were ready to take the test last year than the year before (51.8% vs. 50.8%). The same was true among Beduin (31% vs. 27.9%). However, in the Arab and Druse sectors, eligibility dropped slightly. In the Arab sector the numbers went from 35.7% two years ago to 35.6% this past year, while among the Druse 44.4% had been ready two years ago but 43.7% were ready last year.