Israeli students placed lower on international academic rankings than in previous years, with drops seen in both mathematics and science.
According to the 2015 version of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), Israeli eighth graders fell to sixteenth place from seventh place in 2011 in mathematics, as well as falling to nineteenth place from thirteen place in 2011 in science.
TIMSS is a widely used international benchmark to compare academic achievement in both mathematics and science.
According to Channel 2, the tests were conducted in Israel in April and May of 2015, during the tenure of previous education minister Shai Piron. Over 5,000 eighth graders from more than 200 different schools participated in the survey, although special education, ultra-Orthodox, and East Jerusalem students were not included.
One of the most prominent findings from the survey was the achievement gaps between Jewish and Arab students, with Jewish students scoring significantly better than their Arab peers in both mathematics and science, Channel 2 reported.
Israel had the largest gap of any country between the percentage of students who are outstanding in mathematics and sciences and those who struggle. Thirteen percent of students excelled in mathematics in 2015, a rise from 12% in 2011, while 16% of students were reported to have had difficulties in mathematics in 2015, compared to 13% in 2011.
In science, 12% of students were found to have excelled, up from 11% in 2011, while 16% were reported to have difficulties in 2015, compared to 12% four years prior.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday that “we are in an emergency situation in the study of mathematics and science” and that the results of the test “lend credence to the understanding that Israel is in a major decline” in terms of academic achievement.
Bennett added that since he took on the education ministry in 2015, after the tests were taken, Israel has adopted a new national curriculum in mathematics and science and that “the trend is already scaling back.”
Since 2013, the TIMSS has been conducted every four years, meaning that it won’t be known until 2019 whether Israel is able to quell or reverse its downward slide in mathematics and science.