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An unrecognized Bedouin village has the highest school dropout rate in the country this year - 13 percent - according to data recently released by the Education Ministry.

The high rate in the village of the Azazma clan, south of Be'er Sheva, is indicative of the large proportion of Israeli Arab dropouts in general: Some 35 percent of all Arab students drop out; they constitute just 25 percent of the entire number of Israeli high-schoolers. The data cited are for grades 9-12.

"If our students have to travel in very crowded minibuses and on unpaved paths to school, there is no reason for them to want to continue to study, and that's without even getting into the question of the pedagogic content," said Dr. Iwad Abu Farih, coordinator of the Forum for Arab Education in the Negev.

"In order to deal with dropping out, you have to start taking care of infrastructure," Abu Farih said. "The state needs to treat the children of the Azazma clan and those who live in North Tel Aviv equally."

The communities with the second- and third-highest dropout rates are also Arab: Ilabun (12 percent) and Majd al-Krum (11 percent), both in the Galilee.

Next on the list are either other Arab towns or locales with a large ultra-Orthodox population. Modi'in Illit and Jisr al-Zarqa both have an 11-percent dropout rate; Emmanuel, Kiryat Ye'arim, Arabeh and Buqata have a 10-percent rate. However, the Christian Arab village Milya in the north has a low dropout rate.

At 9 percent, Jerusalem has the highest dropout rate of all the large cities, followed by Tel Aviv (4 percent), Haifa (3 percent) and Be'er Sheva (2 percent). Gan Raveh (8 percent) and Ashkelon (7 percent) had the highest dropout rates of Jewish communities without a significant ultra-Orthodox population.

A total of 20,084 students - 5 percent of the country's high-school population - dropped out of school last year. Education Ministry officials said the national rate has remained relatively stable over the last several years.