Students in Israel rank 39th out of 57 countries in scholastic performace, according to the results of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), an international exam administered in 2006. The results were released on Tuesday, the 47th day of the secondary school teachers' strike.
On reading and mathematics exams specifically, the ranking fell to 40th place.
Finland, Hong Kong and Canada top the list, while Azerbaijan, Qatar and Kyrgyzstan hold the last three spots. In 2000, the last year in which Israel participated in the exam, it ranked 33rd out of 41 countries.
The average Israeli student's score on the exam was 454 points, which falls below the average of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development).
In response to the scores, Education Minister Yuli Tamir said that the "exams demonstrate the ongoing failure of the education system." The results, she said, "strengthen the need for reform. We can't carry out cosmetic adjustments in education. If there is no real and comprehensive change - we'll stay in the same place."
Tamir also said that the "biggest failure begins with the middle schools. We need to invest in them in a focused manner? we also need to think bravely about the matter of heterogeneity in the classroom. Because of heterogeneity, weaker and exceptional students suffer."
PISA, a triennial test, is carried out by the OECD, and seeks to evaluate the sciences, reading and mathematical skills of 15-year-old students nearing the end of their mandatory education. It tests practical knowledge, social skills and the ability to solve complex problems demanding a combination of those fields.
Each test administered examines all of the aforementioned subjects, but has a different focus. The 2006 exam, for which 4,600 students Israeli students sat, emphasized science literacy.
Late last month, a test evaluating fourth graders' reading literacy revealed that Israeli students ranked in 31st place out of 45 states. The test, called The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), conducted by Boston College, assessed 215,000 fourth-grade students' ability to read both literary and informational text.
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