OECD: Schools in Israel are overcrowded

Int'l survey also shows Israeli teachers paid far below 1st-world average, on par with Chile, Hungary.

school children israel class 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
school children israel class 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israel ranks 29 out of 32 countries surveyed on teachers' compensation, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said in a report released on Tuesday. The Jewish state's classrooms are also among the most overcrowded in the developed world. Roughly 33 pupils sit in the average Israeli middle school classroom, compared to an average of 24 students per classroom in the other countries surveyed in the report - a gap of 38 percent. The survey, which covered 32 first-world countries, also found that elementary schools in Israel maintain an average of 27 students, compared to an average of 21 among the rest of the countries. A veteran elementary school teacher in Israel earns the equivalent of $15,000 a year - half of the average among the surveyed countries. This figure places Israel close to the bottom of the list, along with Chile, Estonia and Hungary. The countries with the highest average salary for veteran teachers were Luxembourg, which pays an average annual salary of $89,000 per teacher per year, Switzerland and Germany, whose teachers earn around $60,000, and South Korea and Ireland, which list teachers' salaries as $55,000. In Israel, veteran teachers earn only $1,000 more per year than beginning teachers, providing little financial incentive to stay in the profession, and leading to a high turnover rate. "There's a serious problem with our education system, and the issues just keep popping up in different areas," said Dan Ben-David, who heads the Taub Center, a research institute based in Jerusalem that focuses on socioeconomic issues. "It's not that we have a lack of teachers," he continued. "It really boils down to the same thing every time - that we have a segregated school system, meaning, our school system is broken into four separate streams." Most schools belong to the state secular, state religious, independent haredi, and Arab systems. One of the problems, Ben-David explained, was that even if there was a surplus of teachers, which he said there was, they couldn't be transferred into another sectors' school system. "So in the meantime, we have this overcrowding," he said. "But this is just another in the long line of problems facing the county's education system, that if we don't' fix now, will just be worse later on." Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.