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OECD: Israel Lags in Teacher Pay and Spending per Pupil

In 2007, Israel spent $3,631 per kindergarten child, $5,060 per elementary school pupil and $5,741 per high school student compared respectively to the OECD average of $6,741, $5447 and $8,257.

Teacher salaries and spending per student in Israel are among the lowest in the developed world, according to an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report released yesterday.

The report, whose figures refer to 2007-2008, compares how much each country spends on education and how education systems operate. It lets member states compare themselves to other countries.

Gideon Sa’ar, Olivier Fitoussi
Olivier Fitoussi

In 2007, Israel spent $3,631 per kindergarten child, $5,060 per elementary school pupil and $5,741 per high school student compared respectively to the OECD average of $6,741, $5447 and $8,257.

In 1995-2007 the spending per Israeli student increased by a mere 8 percent, while the international average soared by 42 percent.

The number of high school graduates in Israel is among the highest in the OECD - 90 percent of this age group completed 12 years of school compared to the 80 percent international average. The rate of Israelis with higher education is 44 percent among 25-64-year-olds. But a more detailed examination shows Israel is one of the only states in which the rate of higher education (academic and professional ) among young people aged 25-34 is lower than that of the general population's.

"In the past Israel absorbed immigrants who acquired higher education in their countries of origin," wrote Professor Ruth Klinov of the Hebrew University, who analyzed the findings. "This component's contribution to Israeli population's education is dwindling, and Israel will be increasingly influenced by the local education system." While most countries increase the rate of people with higher education and considerably reduce those with lower education, in Israel the situation remains unchanged, she wrote.

The report - Education at a Glance 2010 - also shows that Israeli classrooms are more crowded than in the developed world, with an average of 27.6 students per class in elementary school and 32.5 per class in junior high, compared to 21.6 and 23.9 respectively in the OECD.

As in previous years, Israeli teachers' wages remain far below what their colleagues earn in the developed world. The annual wages of an Israeli elementary school teacher with 15 years seniority was $19,868 in 2008, less than half of the OECD average of $39,426.

In junior high and high school the Israeli teacher's annual salary was $22,410, compared to an OECD average of $41,927 and $45,850 respectively.

The Education Ministry said much of the OECD data, such as the figures for teachers' wages, refer to the years before the New Horizon reform was introduced.

Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar said yesterday Israel was still far from "answering all the education system's needs."

"We struggled to change the order of national priorities, and the last budget proves it. It is difficult to compete with the other states, which invest in education much more than Israel does," he said.