An elementary school in Abu Tor in East Jerusalem. The balconies have been converted into classrooms
An elementary school in Abu Tor in East Jerusalem. The balconies have been converted into classrooms. Photo by Emil Salman
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Israel increasingly lags other developed countries in spending per child, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said this week.

Israel also ranks poorly in teachers' salaries, students per classroom and inequalities in achievements between schools along socioeconomic lines, said the OECD, which comprises most of the world's developed economies.

Between 2005 and 2009, investment per schoolchild increased 10% as opposed to 15% on average for OECD countries. Between 1995 and 2009, however, the increase in Israel was 15% compared with a 41% OECD average- highlighting how far the country has fallen behind.

Figures from 2009 show that Israel's average spending per student from elementary school through higher education was $6,410 per year - 31% less than the OECD average of $9,252. This, however, doesn't reflect budget supplements given to the Education Ministry since 2009 and expected budget increases in the coming years from the implementation of reforms such as Oz Le'tmura.

According to OECD figures, Israeli high school teachers were paid no more in 2010 than they were in 2000. Israel's high school teachers are expected to receive a raise when the Oz Le'tmura reform takes effect.

Teachers' pay at Israel's middle schools rose just 8% over the decade, well under the 17% average among OECD countries, while only the country's elementary school teachers enjoyed better pay hikes than those in other countries: a  31% increase in Israel compared with the OECD average of 22%, thanks to the Ofek Hadash reform signed in 2008 under then-Education Minister Yuli Tamir.

Still, the annual salary of an Israeli elementary school teacher with 15 years experience was $29,639 − 31% less than the OECD average of $43,048.

Israel’s teachers, however, have larger classes to contend with, among the most crowded in the world: An average of 27.6 pupils per class in elementary schools and 29.8 in high schools, compared with averages of 21.2 and 23.4 in the OECD. Higher classroom congestion can be found in only a handful of countries like Mexico, Chile and Japan.

The gap between Israel’s best and worst schools in student achievement as measured by international PISA testing is the widest among all developed nations.

The organization divided schools into four groups based on scholastic performance, percentage of immigrants in attendance, and level of education attained by mothers of pupils. Israel received the highest score, 141, indicating the widest gap between schools in the top group and those in the bottom group. This compared with an average of 77 for OECD countries, the same figure as for the United States.

Bottom line: Education in Israel is more inequitable than in any other developed country, with students at higher-ranked schools enjoying an advantage over students at poorly-ranked schools more than anywhere in the developed world. France and Hungary also did poorly at 125 points each, while the results for Estonia, Norway and Finland showed barely any gap at all.