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About 39 percent of all school dropouts are new immigrants, according to an Education Ministry report released Sunday. The report was prepared by the coalition for at-risk immigrant youth ahead of Monday's meeting of the Knesset Immigration and Absorption Committee.

One out of every four immigrant students drops out of school, compared to one out of 10 Israeli-born students, according to the report. The report also states that the "latent" dropout rate (including low academic achievement and other parameters) is about 40 percent, as opposed to 30 percent among the student population as a whole.

According to the Education Ministry, 5.1 percent of immigrant 7th to 12th graders - 11,511 students - did not finish the 2004-2005 school year or did not begin the 2005-2006 school year. In comparison, the national dropout rate in the Jewish sector is 3.9 percent. Education Ministry figures also show that 45 percent of those who dropped out of the 11th and 12th grade are new immigrants, and that 46 percent of teens who came to Israel over the past five years have not finished 12 years of schooling.

The coalition's report is based on a survey carried out in three communities with a high population of immigrant youth: Lod, Pardes Hannah and Ashdod. A questionnaire was given to 128 immigrant teens, both dropouts and students. In addition, interviews were conducted with parents and experts.

Truancy leads to dropping out In addition to the 40-percent "latent" dropout rate, which includes students with behavioral problems, low academic achievement and a sense of alienation from school, the survey revealed that about 80 percent of the students who dropped out were absent once a day to once a week before they left school for good.

This indicates that truancy foretells dropping out, according to the survey. Among their reasons for leaving school, dropouts noted a sense of discomfort at school and a negative attitude from teachers.

Many said they were told at least once not to come to school, mainly after a violent incident or a disturbance.

The survey also asked dropouts to rate their identity on a scale of 1 to 5.

The respondents gave "Russian" an average grade of 4.6 and "Israeli," 2.4. Seventy percent of the dropouts said they preferred speaking Russian to Hebrew, as opposed to 65 percent of the students.

The survey also revealed that only 15 percent of the dropouts said someone from the school staff took an interest in their absence, and that the parents do not know where to turn in response to their children's educational problems.

The Education Ministry said in response that it had established a special task force to fight the phenomenon, and was implementing programs for 9,000 immigrant students. It also said it was preparing a program on Israeli and Jewish identity among new immigrant students.