'Academic achievement has not fallen over past decade'

New study by Taub Center goes counter to notion that Israel's students have been on downward spiral in recent years; students still rank low internationally.

Shas schools 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Shas schools 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
There has been no deterioration in Israeli students’ academic performance over the past 10 years, according to a new study issued this week.
The study – entitled “Have the Achievements of Israel’s Education System Declined in Recent Years?” – was compiled by Nachum Blass at the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel. Its findings run contrary to the commonly held notion that the country’s students have been on a downward spiral academically in recent years.
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However, the study also shows that Israeli students’ low ranking on international scholastic tests continues to be a problem.
The study’s results came from examining the internal Israeli national exams and prominent international tests like PISA, PIRLS and TIMSS.
Blass argued in the study that unduly negative criticism of the Israeli education system could harm its efforts at improvement and lead to feelings of despair.
“An all-out attack on the education system and teachers leads to a lack of respect toward them and serves those who feel that additional investments in the educational system are a waste of resources,” he wrote.
Blass also said there had been a significant amount of good news in the education system over the past decade, including increases in the level of teacher education and in funding for construction in the haredi and Arab education systems.
According to the report, the percentage of Israeli students achieving bagrut (matriculation) certification stood at 46 percent in 2009, as opposed to 41% in 2000. It also showed that since 2000, the percentage of students learning in 12th grade countries has increased.
Blass also ruled that while it appeared Israel’s rankings on the TIMSS, PISA and PIRLS tests had fallen over the past decade, the drop could be explained by the recent addition of OECD countries whose scores were higher than Israel’s.
When ranking Israel’s scores on the PISA test, the study found that in 2000, Israel was in 25th place internationally; it remained in 25th place in 2009, even as its scores increased by 14 points.
According to the report, Israel’s performance can be improved by “provision of greater financial resources for students from poorer families in order to narrow educational and social gaps between them and their more affluent peers and to improve their achievements.”
Blass said such achievements could be reached by offering incentives that would draw higher-quality students to teach at schools serving weaker populations, and incentives for students and teachers to increase their performance. He also recommended that Israelis acknowledge the system’s achievements while remaining aware of its flaws.