Israeli pupils ranked low in world exam

Middle school students fall behind 39 other countries in mathematics and reading sections of test.

Israel has been ranked among the bottom third of countries who participated in an international examination conducted to test the reading, mathematical and scientific capabilities of pupils aged 15, according to a Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) report released on Tuesday. Out of 57 countries that took part in the international test, Israeli were ranked in 40th place in the reading and math sections. The ranking is a drop of nine places in math and 10 places in reading since the examination was last conducted seven years ago. Students got an average of 454 points in the science section of the test - a grade below average among countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Finland, Hong Kong and Canada achieved the top scores in the exam with Qatar, Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan receiving the worst marks. In contrast to Israel, other countries were noted by the OECD's website to have made "significant improvements in student performance since 2000." The test was carried out among 400,000 students around the globe in 2006 and focused primarily on comprehension of scientific problems and how students dealt with them. Education Minister Yuli Tamir said the results highlighted the need for a real overhaul of the education establishment. She said that junior high schools were the weak part of the establishment and her ministry would work on bolstering them. The education minister said the poor ranking was influenced by "poverty and the complexity of Israeli society," stressing however that these factors were not an excuse for the low grades, Israel Radio reported.