Only 44.4 percent of 17-year-olds in Israel were eligible for a matriculation certificate in 2008, according to statistics released by the Adva Center on Sunday.

Moreover, only 38.5 percent of those eligible passed the matriculation at a level that meets university-entrance requirements. The most troubling figure, however, was the 20 percent of students in 2008 who did not attend twelfth grade at all.

According to the study, the matriculation eligibly rate in 2008 was highest in affluent communities, where 67.1 percent of 17-year-olds received the certificate. This number contrasts those in parallel communities where the figures were much lower.

In peripheral towns, 46.9 percent of students are eligible for matriculation, while only 32.4 percent of students in Arab villages and 26.6 percent of Bedouins in the Negev are eligible.

The report showed a high correlation between eligibility rates and average income level. The higher the income level of the community, the higher the eligibility rates for the matriculation certificate.

"It looks as though the Education Ministry did not manage to break the inequality cycle in Israeli society," was written in the report.

The report also notes that from 1980-2000, the eligibility rate for the matriculation certificate jumped from 20 to 40 percent. At the start of the decade, it seemed as though the rise would continue at the same rate since the eligibility rates almost reached 50 percent in 2004. However, since 2005 there has been a steady decline in the rates of matriculation eligibility.

"Minister [Gideon] Sa'ar formulated a list of goals wherein he decided to put an emphasis on increasing the numbers of eligible students for matriculation," the Education Ministry wrote in a statement responding to the report.

"As part of the plan, the minister decided to significantly raise the amount of funds allocated to increase teaching hours in the current school year," said the statement.