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The admissions scores of first-year students at colleges training teachers for state-run Arab schools are higher than those preparing for state-run non-religious Jewish schools, a recently released Education Ministry report shows.

But of the 25 teacher training colleges in the country, the one which scored the highest marks was Herzog College in Gush Etzion, which readies students to teach at state-run religious Jewish schools. On average, such colleges had higher admissions rates than those geared toward non-religious schools.

The students at the Academic Institute for Arab Teacher Training at Beit Berl College, on the outskirts of Kfar Sava, and Al-Qasemi Academic College of Education, near Baka al-Garbiyeh, had the highest admissions scores this year of colleges geared toward non-religious schools, both Jewish and Arab.

"We are very happy that we've outranked other institutions, Jewish ones, for training teachers," said Dr. Adel Manna, who heads the Academic Institute for Arab Teacher Training. "Since there are a lot of jobs that are off-limits to Arabs with college degrees the students have no choice but to work from the beginning toward professions where work can be found relatively easily, like teaching. We 'benefit' from this situation."

However, over the past few years there has been a surplus of Arab teachers, leaving some trained staff unemployed. An Education Ministry official estimated recently that the country currently has a surplus of about 5,000 Arab teachers.

The Arab teachers college at Beit Berl had the highest average admissions score for all state-run non-religious schools: 577, a number that combines the scores for the bagrut matriculation exams with the psychometric exam. Al-Qasemi had an average of 565 points. The average for state-run Jewish and Arab non-religious schools was 548.

The third-highest score for the non-religious schools was at the Beit Berl School of Education, with 562 points.

The average for state-run religious schools was 569.

Prof. Shmuel Shilo, who heads Herzog, said the reason for the gap between religious and secular Jewish schools was that in the religious community there were more idealistic students wanting to teach despite the low salaries.

As for the Arab colleges, while Manna focused on selective hiring as a reason for their high rankings, Al-Qasemi head Dr. Muhammad Issawi highlighted the traditionalism of Arab parents.

Issawi said his institution draws female students who scored very high on their psychometric exams and could have chosen to study in the most prestigious departments at the universities."

"But the parents push them to teaching, because the profession is considered relatively convenient and suitable for having a family," he said. "If with the Jews, every mother wants her son to be a doctor or lawyer, with us, many parents want their daughter to be a teacher. That conservatism works in favor of the (teacher training) colleges."