A record number of classrooms were disqualified in an annual assessment exam, a jump the country’s education minister attributed to cheating in the Arab community.
At a press conference to review the results of the system-wide test, released on Monday, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar said the vast majority of those disqualified were in the non-Jewish, Arab and Bedouin populations.
An opposing politician accused Sa’ar of trying to make political capital by blaming the minorities.
Of the 218 classrooms caught cheating on the tests, 213 were in Arab and Bedouin schools. So widespread was the problem that the results for mother-tongue language tests of 5th graders in the Arab sector were canceled altogether.
“To be fair, the phenomenon is insignificant in Hebrew-speaking schools,” Sa’ar said. “It seems that this year we discovered the true extent of the problem. We must assume that in the past there was a skewing of results upwards as a result of compromised integrity of the exams, which hadn’t been discovered.”
The results of the exam, known as MEGS tests, which are taken annually by a rotation of about half the elementary and junior high schools in Israel and are intended to gauge progress in science, language (either Hebrew or Arabic), mathematics, and English, showed a drop in capabilities in both mathematics and language skills.
A year ago, Sa’ar reported that there had been improvement across the board in the exams.
Kadima MK Ronit Tirosh, a former director-general of the Education Ministry, said that Sa’ar was putting on a tough show with the Arab community to appeal to the hard-right factions of Likud, Maariv reported.
“In the Likud they know that they don’t get even a quarter of a seat from that sector so they are trampling all over them,” she said. “Sa’ar wants to kill two birds with one stone: both to say that he isn’t responsible for the drop in results but rather that there is a problem in the sector, and also to show to the Likud voters that he doesn’t care about the Arab sector.”