Report: Academic Gap Widening Between 12th Graders From Rich, Poor Israeli Communities

Kids from richer cities have highest matriculation rates, while bottom of the list is dominated by Arab and ultra-Orthodox towns.

The gap between well-off and poorer towns in terms of the percentage of students earning matriculation certificates has grown, and now stands at 17 percentage points, data issued Wednesday by the Education Ministry shows.

Among socioeconomically strong towns and cities ‏(as defined by what is known as the Fostering Index), 68.11 percent of 12th graders earned a matriculation certificate during the 2010-2011 school year, while in the poorer locales the ratio was only 51.15 percent.

The Fostering Index takes into account such factors as the father’s place of origin, the father’s education, and family size relative to living quarters. The data relates to local authorities with populations greater than 10,000 people.

Of the 15 towns and cities with the top matriculation rates, 13 are considered socioeconomically strong. The two exceptions were Nesher, in the Haifa area, and Maghar, in the Galilee.

Shoham once again placed first among the local authorities, with 86.2 percent of its 12th graders matriculating − up slightly from the previous year’s 85.5 percent. Second was Kokhav Yair, with 84.82 percent of its 12th graders matriculating − a slight decrease of over half a percentage point.

The Hof HaSharon Regional Council, Kiryat Ono and Hod Hasharon complete the top five.

The bottom of the list is dominated by Arab and ultra-Orthodox towns and cities. The lowest-ranking Jewish locales were Betar Ilit (‏10.88 percent‏) and Bnei Brak (10.89 percent‏), while the lowest-ranking Arab town was Kafr Qasem, with 26.82 percent of 12th graders matriculating, followed by Kalansua, with 35.18 percent.

Other low-ranking locales included Modi’in Ilit, Kafr Manda, Abu Snan, Jisr al-Zarka, Lod, Kiryat Malakhi, Taibeh and Yarka. Given the massive investment that the government has made recently in Lod, its 37.99 percent matriculation rate stands out.

All these numbers include only those students who were actually in 12th grade, not of all the teenagers of matriculation age. Teenagers who dropped out before 12th grade are not included in the data.

It should be noted that most ultra-Orthodox high schoolers do not take the Education Ministry matriculation exams as a matter of policy, even if their school has a secular studies program. But the data from Arab towns and cities points to an ongoing failure to raise the percentage of those earning matriculation certificates in any significant way, with only a few exceptions.

In the Druze town of Maghar, the ratio shot up 14 percentage points in one year to 79.61 percent, while Jisr al-Zarka showed the sharpest increase among the Arab towns − 12.5 percentage points − although its total ratio of matriculators stands at only 37.65 percent.

Among Israel’s largest cities, Jerusalem showed a sharp drop in those eligible for matriculation certificates: While in 2008-2009 the rate was over 48 percent of 12th graders, in 2010-20011 the percentage was 41.68.

In a statement, the Jerusalem municipality said: “The Education Ministry data doesn’t reflect the situation in Jerusalem, since the city has students from numerous sectors ‏(Haredi and Arab‏) who do not take the Israeli matriculation exams.”

Tel Aviv saw a rise, from 70 percent of its 12th graders matriculating in 2009-2010 to 73.68 percent in 2010-2011. Haifa also improved by two percentage points, going up to 73.6 percent.