The Education Ministry has released its high school matriculation (bagrut) results for the last school year, and Sharon area cities once again feature strongly on and near the top of the list, reports the Yediot Aharonot Web site www.ynet.co.il. The small town of Kochav Yair, near Kfar Saba, had the highest number of students successful in obtaining their matriculation certificates of any city or town in Israel, while the South Sharon Regional Council, Ramat Hasharon, Hod Hasharon, Ra'anana and Herzliya were all among the top 11 place-getters. According to the report, the ministry released figures last month showing that some 84,000 12th-graders - 72 percent of those eligible - sat for their matriculation exams around the country last year. This was 1,500 students fewer (2.4% percent less) than in the previous year. Only 44.4 percent obtained their matriculation certificates last year, almost 2% fewer than in the previous year. The report said the difference between the Jewish and Arab sectors was large and growing, with 59.74% of Jewish students successfully matriculating compared with only 31.94% of Arab students. Last week, the ministry released a breakdown of the matriculation results by cities, listing almost 150 towns and cities with populations of more than 10,000. The report pointed out that the list showed where the students lived and not where they went to school. Kochav Yair topped the list, with 82.30% of its 12th-graders successfully obtaining their matriculation certificates. The report said that although in larger cities most students attend local high schools, Kohav Yair does not have its own high school and all its students go to high schools in Kfar Saba, Hod Hasharon or the South Sharon Regional Council. Kochav Ya'ir Mayor Ya'akov Maman said that the city's policy of allowing the students to choose which high school they wanted to attend was one of the reasons for the good results. Maman also said the city invested 35% of its budget, or some NIS 16 million per year, in education, keeping classes to fewer than 27 students from first grade and giving students individual, private assistance. He also said that 90% of the city's students belonged to youth movements and took part in community service projects. The report said the central town of Shoham came in second with a matriculation rate of 77.94%, while, to the surprise of many, the Arab city of Fureidis, near Haifa, was in third place with 75.86%, a giant leap of 20% from the previous year. The South Sharon Regional Council was in fourth place with75.72%, Ramat Hasharon was fifth with 75.63%, Hod Hasharon was sixth with 75.56%, Modi'in-Maccabim/Re'ut was seventh with 75%, Ra'anana was eighth with 74.31%, and Herzliya was 11th with 71.99%. Kfar Saba was further down the list, in 28th place with 66.95%, while Netanya lagged well behind, in 75th place with 55.75%. Among the largest cities, Tel Aviv-Jaffa was in 23rd place with 68.55%, Haifa was 42nd with 63.44%, Beersheba was 76th (just behind Netanya) with 55.04% and Jerusalem was in 92nd place with 50.8%. At the very bottom of the list was Bnei Brak, with a matriculation rate of just 14.94%.