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High school graduation rates ticked up last year despite COVID

73.4% of students qualified to graduate in the 2019-2020 academic year, compared to 69.7% a year earlier

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

Yehud Comprehensive High School students take their matriculation exams in Yehud on July 8, 2020. (Yossi Zeliger/ Flash90)
Yehud Comprehensive High School students take their matriculation exams in Yehud on July 8, 2020. (Yossi Zeliger/ Flash90)

The percentage of Israeli students who qualified to graduate high school last year rose in comparison to the previous year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic that threw the school year into disarray.

According to statistics published by the Education Ministry on Monday, the rate of eligibility to graduate high school over the 2019-2020 school year stood at 73.4 percent. That represented an increase of 3.7 percentage points over the previous year, when 69.7% of students qualified to graduate, compared to 69.9% in the 2017-2018 academic year.

Broken down by communities, the rate stood at 75.8% among Jewish students, and 69.4% among Arab students, not including East Jerusalem. Among the Druze, the figure was 89.2%, and just 58.1% among the Bedouin, who live in the south.

In state-run secular schools, the graduation rate was 83.9%, compared to 85.9% for state-run religious schools and 24% in ultra-Orthodox institutions.

According to the Education Ministry statistics, 75% of female students graduated, compared to 71.6% of male students. Just over 41% of students graduated after taking five units of English — the highest-possible level.

The 2019-2020 academic year was a particularly bumpy one in Israel, marked by COVID lockdowns, distance learning, and frequent quarantine for students, teachers, and parents alike. In mid-March, Israel shut schools, as it entered its first, heavily restricted lockdown, and worked to rapidly switch to classes via Zoom.

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

At the beginning of May, students in first to third grades in some cities were allowed to return to in-person classes, as were those in 11th and 12th grades, who were called to return to prepare for their matriculation exams. Students ages 16-18 were also prioritized to receive the COVID vaccine earlier this year, ahead of those under 35, in order to allow them to complete the school year.

Though schools continued to reopen gradually, many were quickly shut, once infections were discovered in classrooms and students and teachers were forced to quarantine.

Similar problems continued to plague the 2020-2021 school year.

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