OECD thrashes Israeli education stats

Report points to classroom overcrowding, low teacher salaries and underfunding for students, but notes ‘population is well educated’

Aaron Kalman is a former writer and breaking news editor for the Times of Israel

A mother and daughter walk by a sign greeting new first grade students in Jerusalem. (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash 90)
A mother and daughter walk by a sign greeting new first grade students in Jerusalem. (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash 90)

Israel’s education system spends less per student than it used to and is not rewarding teachers nearly as much as other countries do, an OECD report released Tuesday revealed.

The 2013 Education at a Glance report, which highlights some of the problems schools and teachers are facing, finds that though Israel increased its Education Ministry budget and upped the percentage of the country’s GDP devoted to education, the budget increase was smaller than the growth in the student body — resulting in less money being invested per capita.

“Israel’s annual expenditure per student from primary through tertiary education, including R&D, of over $6,500 in 2010 was almost one-third less than the OECD average of $9,313, and was the eighth lowest expenditure per student of OECD countries,” the report found.

A further breakdown of the numbers showed most of Israel’s budget was transferred to high schools and higher education, with elementary school children being left behind.

The salaries of Israeli teachers were far below the average paycheck for educators in the OECD countries. An average teacher was making only 71 percent of the salary earned by his or her foreign colleagues, the report said.

“The report points to a known problem,” the head of the national parents’ board, Gideon Fischer, told Walla News. In the report “we see the investment of the country is in the older ages and not necessarily the younger children. We believe the pyramid should be the opposite,” with most of the money going to the younger pupils, he said.

The report also found that classrooms throughout the country were  far more crowded than those in other OECD countries, with six pupils more per classroom than the average in member states.

Fischer said that he received complaints regarding the size of classrooms on nearly a daily basis. The parents’ organization, he said, met with the head of the Knesset Education Committee Amram Mitzna last week and asked him to bring the issue up in parliament.

Despite the difficulties, the enrollment in Israeli schools was some 9% higher than the average OECD country, a statistic the study attributed not only to high attendance, but also to low dropout rates.

Though Israel’s investment in education wasn’t close to the average, the report stated “Israel’s population is well educated. Israel ranks second among OECD countries (tied with Japan and just after Canada) for the percentage of 25- to 64-year-olds that have achieved tertiary education: 46% compared with an OECD average of 32%.”

“The share of 25- to 64-year-olds with at least an upper secondary education is 83%, well above the OECD average of 75%, while at the same time, the proportion of those with only an elementary education is well below the OECD average, 17% compared with 25% across OECD countries,” the report said.

Opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich said after the report was released that the economic policy led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid would “only make things worse.” The facts in the report, she stated, were “a direct result of a policy of harsh budget cuts in the system over the decade in which Netanyahu ruled.”

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