Computer science class.
Computer science class. Photo by David Bachar
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The number of computer science teachers in Israeli secular state schools has plunged by 42% from 1999 to 2010, according to a study by the Knesset Research and Information Center, which charted a nearly across-the-board decline in the number of science teachers.

The report, based on data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, found that the decline in the number of computer science teachers was smaller in state religious schools, but still 15.2% for the period.

In the secular schools, other science subjects suffered declining numbers of teachers as well. In chemistry it plummeted by 31%, followed by decreases of 11.6% in physics and 8.4% in biology. The number of teachers in technology classes fell by 5.2%.

The only science discipline that saw an increase in faculty in secular schools was mathematics, where the number of teachers jumped 67.3%.

On the whole, state religious schools experienced a smaller drop in science faculty. The number of physics instructors fell 6.8% - but the number teaching math increased by 77%, while the number of biology teachers jumped by 15.5%.

The one major exception was chemistry, where the number of teachers plunged 47.5% in the 12 years.

In Arab schools, however, the picture was different, with the number of computer science teachers rising by 50%. The Arab sector also saw a rise of 165% in instructors teaching technology classes and a 171% increase in the number teaching mathematics, the report found.

The number of physics teachers in Arab schools grew by 25%, those teaching chemistry by 44% and in biology by 81.7%.

Yet across the entire educational system, the average age of science and computer instructors rose, according to the study. The number of young computer teachers dropped by 54% in secular schools. In state religious schools the decline was a more modest 41.4% and even in the Arab sector there was a drop of 27%.

The age profile spells bad news for the school because it means that as older teachers retire, there are inadequate numbers of younger faculty to replace them. In 2011, only 46 new computer science teachers completed courses at the country's teacher training colleges.

That compared with 302 in math and 258 in biology. Only three received diplomas to teach technology.

The Knesset report said that as the number of teachers in the sciences and computers declined, schools have cut back teaching hours and in many cases high schools have stopped offering these classes altogether. The cutback in teaching hours hit the Arab sector as well.