Meitzav exam results show widening education gaps based on socioeconomic status

Gaps are significantly high in maths, science and technology; wide gaps also noted between Jewish and Arab students.

Students in classroom 311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Students in classroom 311
(photo credit: Reuters)
Significant achievement gaps between pupils of high and low socioeconomic backgrounds were revealed in the results of the 2012-2013 school year’s Meitzav exam published by the Education Ministry on Sunday.
The exam, used to assess and compare the performances of schools across the country, is administered to elementary school pupils every four years and tests language, math and science skills.
Some 113,854 pupils from 1,131 schools took part in the evaluation in the past school year.
According to the results, there have been significantly widening achievement gaps recorded in mathematics, science and technology between pupils from the poorest echelon of the population and the richest one in recent years. For the year 2012-2013, a difference of dozens of points was found in these disciplines.
In terms of languages – Arabic and Hebrew – the gaps have slightly narrowed, but remain high.
For all subjects and all levels, the educational gap between Jewish and Arab pupils also stood at dozens of points.
In addition, the report stated that while overall, grades have gone up in Arabic and mathematics, as well as in science and technology – which saw an overall increase of close to 20 points – the data showed an average drop of five points in Hebrew.
Head of Ohalo College of Education in Katzrin, Prof. Shimon Amar, said following the publication of the results on Sunday that the education system should see the results as a “red flag which brings the values and economic future of the country in question.”
“The deepening gaps indicate that the current pedagogy from preschool to higher academic education has failed,” he said, “A new pedagogy should be a dynamic one that fits every child in Israel – whether he is Arab or Jewish, from the Center or the periphery.”
“Education should not dependent on the pockets of the student’s parents or his geographical location,” Amar added.
He further said that appropriate and proper education should start in kindergarten and continue through high school.
“You can’t skip steps and think that tomorrow morning in eighth grade, children will be able to successfully stand for the Meitzav exam,” he stated.
According to Amar, if the issue is not taken care of, “Israel will continue to see the development of a parallel education system that will prepare students for higher education on the basis of socioeconomic status,” which will only perpetuate the gaps.
Opposition chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) also reacted to the data, on Sunday and said it shows that “high-level education has a price, and that a poor child and a rich child experience two very different education systems.”
She added that “gaps in education are a threat to Israel “ and called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Education Minister Shai Piron to advance a solution to the issue, which according to her is “the result of a systematic policy.”
“The classrooms are more crowded, teaching hours were slashed, and thousands of teachers become exploited contract workers,” Yachimovich said. “This decreases the ability of teachers to fix, even just slightly, the inequality that begins for the moment we are born and give a fair opportunity to those who do not get one at home.”