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The Education Ministry says some 29,262 children dropped out of school this year. These are students who were registered but did not start school this year or did not finish it.

Of this number, about 36 percent are Arabs, a much greater percentage than their share in the overall student population.

Four months ago, Education Minister Yuli Tamir said the numbers were lower than in 2007, but a look at updated figures shows an increase of about 5,500 dropouts.

The Education Ministry gave Haaretz the percentage of dropouts from among all students, and not, as in the past, of students in grades 9 through 12, which makes a comparison with previous years difficult.

However, sources close to the situation expect the numbers to increase this year.