The way the Education Ministry allocates funding clearly short-changes the Arab sector, according to a new study by the advocacy group Hakol Hinuch.

This will be reported tomorrow at the annual Sderot Conference on Social Issues.

The study found that the allocation systems favor the state religious school system over the state secular system.

The study surveyed the number of classroom buildings and other variables such as the number of classes and the number of students per class in some 2,000 elementary schools and 600 junior-high schools.

The data, from the 2008 school year, showed the average number of classroom hours per student per week - a metric used to measure the relationship between class size and instruction hours - is 1.59 in poorer Arab communities, compared to 2.10 in Jewish communities of the same socioeconomic background. This is because Arab students receive fewer instruction hours and because they have larger classes.

According to the report, prepared for Hakol Hinuch by Nahum Blas, there is no affirmative action or other measure to correct for the Arabs' lack of hours per student.

Within the Jewish schools, the poorest children in the secular school system get 2.04 classroom hours per student, compared to an average of 2.38 hours per student in the state religious system. The difference stems from the fact that while the two systems have a similar number of classroom hours, there are generally fewer students per class in the state religious system.

The study also shows that students in the state Orthodox system receive between 22 percent and 34 percent more funding for classroom hours beyond what the school is required to provide, compared to 15 percent to 20 percent in the state secular system, and 2 percent to 5 percent in the Arab schools.

Rabbi Shay Piron, executive director of Hakol Hinuch, said, "The education system must not become a system that discriminates and decides the fate of children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds at such an early stage in their lives."

The Education Ministry said it had not seen the study, and that "great efforts are being made to allocate resources and close gaps in building classrooms, decreasing students per class, allocating more study hours and in other ways."