Half of Israeli 7th-11th graders say studies suffered due to COVID

Education Ministry survey of pedagogic, social and emotional impacts of pandemic also finds many in younger grades feel schools got better during coronavirus years

Illustrative: Students at the Ramon School in Modi'in, on October 12, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
Illustrative: Students at the Ramon School in Modi'in, on October 12, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Around half of Israeli teens in junior high and high school said the coronavirus pandemic negatively impacted their studies, according to an Education Ministry survey published Thursday said.

The survey of approximately 560,000 students in grades 5-11 from over 3,000 schools across the country measured the effects of the pandemic on the learning environment and the atmosphere in schools from pedagogical, social and emotional standpoints over the past school year.

Students in the highest two grades surveyed, reported the highest levels of negative effects from the pandemic across the board, while those in lower grades were more likely to say they were unaffected or felt a positive impact from changes in schools wrought by COVID-19.

In grades 10 and 11, 54 percent of students surveyed reported that their studies were affected negatively by the pandemic, 46% said they were harmed emotionally, and 31% reported negative social impacts.

In 7th to 9th grades, 47% said their studies suffered, 38% had negative emotional impacts and 28% said their social lives took a hit.

For the two youngest grades, 39% reported that their studies were positively impacted, compared to 33% who reported a negative impact, 35% reported emotional uplift compared to 28% percent who said the pandemic was emotionally harmful and 41% reported that they were impacted socially for the better, compared to 22% who said it was worse.

Both the education minister and school professionals said that the results were concerning.

“The results of the survey clearly reflect what the education system felt and still feels, after two difficult years of COVID,” Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton said.

Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton attends a press conference in Tel Aviv on May 9, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Israeli schools were largely open for much of last year, albeit with varying degrees of online learning, social distancing, and face mask requirements.

The Education Ministry’s National Authority for Measurement and Evaluation in Education, known by its Hebrew acronym RAMA, conducts the survey annually, though it normally looks at issues such as integration, violence and relationships between staff and students.

Shasha-Biton emphasized that half a billion shekels were invested last year “in reducing gaps, most of them emotional and social,” created by the COVID crisis.

“Schools, as education sites, play an important role in shaping and nurturing the emotional and social side of students, which also directly affects their academic achievements. The survey findings, which allow us to target the necessary measures in the system, help us in this task,” she added.

Israeli students go to school, at a high school in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, November 29, 2020. (Flash90)

Menashe Levy, chair of the High School Principals Association, said the results painted a damning picture of schools lacking sufficient skilled staff to provide quality education or emotional experience for students.

“The lack of standards in kindergartens and elementary schools, and the wretched standards in high schools, reflect a severe picture of a critical shortage of counselors, assistants, psychologists, diagnosticians, experts in learning disabilities, speech therapists, inspectors, and more,” he said, according to Ynet.

“Adding to that the signficant lack of skilled teachers and you get a difficult situation where there is no one to take care of the children who need it for educational and emotional reasons,” he added.

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