OECD report shows Israeli education gaps, but also greater investment in schools

Data highlights growth in funds for institutions at all levels, though spending per student remains comparatively low, and classes are crowded

Illustrative: First grade students sit in a classroom on their first day of school (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Illustrative: First grade students sit in a classroom on their first day of school (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

A new report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released Tuesday shows several significant gaps in Israel’s investment in the education system compared to other member countries, though it also highlights positive trends and apparent recognition by the state of the issue’s importance.

The OECD’s annual Education at a Glance report — which is mostly based on data up to 2015 — shows Israel’s spending per student to be lower than average across the board, with the state’s investment totaling $8,000 a year at elementary and high school levels (compared to $8,500 and $9,900 on average) and $11,000 at the tertiary level (compared to $15,500).

Spending on education at ages 0-3 is at a mere 20 percent of the average among OECD nations, at $2,713 a year compared to $12,400. The disparity is at least partly due to the fact that only a quarter of Israeli children at this age attend publicly subsidized daycare centers, while others are either at private institutions or at home.

However, the report states, Israel substantially increased its public investment in early childhood education and care in 2004-2015, a time period in which “public spending on pre-primary education increased by 12 percentage points in Israel compared to 5 percentage points on average across OECD countries.”

Class size in Israel is second only to Chile among the OECD nations, with an average of around 25-29 students per classroom in primary and secondary levels, compared to 21-23 across the OECD. Still, the ratio of students to teaching staff hovers around the OECD average.

Teachers’ work hours have increased in recent years as have their salaries. However, actual teaching time for students is lower than the OECD average. Starting salaries for teachers are also significantly lower than the average wage in Israel and progress more slowly than in other nations.

In 2010-2015, spending “on primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary educational institutions increased by 35% compared to 4% on average across OECD countries.”

The report also notes that Israel spends more than average on education out of its gross domestic product (GDP), at 6% compared to 5%.

However, while enrollment in tertiary institutions went up by 22% in that same period compared to 2% across the OECD, state spending has not kept up the pace, increasing by only 13% — meaning spending per student has gone down 7%.

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