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The proportion of students who received matriculation certificates but did not meet the minimum requirements for entering college reached 13.2 percent in the 2008-09 school year, up from 13 percent the year before, Education Ministry data released yesterday revealed.

Overall, the percentage of 17-year-olds who qualify for matriculation stood at 44.4 percent last year. Four years earlier, this figure was 49 percent.

The report found that pass rates among students in academic tracks were much higher than among students in technological or vocational tracks - 61 percent compared with 48 percent. Also, the proportion of girls who matriculated was higher than that of boys - 61 percent compared to 53 percent.

Among new immigrants, 51 percent matriculated, compared with 61 percent of all Jewish students.

The report found that around 5 percent of the 32,200 students who took the matriculation exams (bagrut) but were not granted certificates were only one subject short of passing. That one subject was most often mathematics. The proportion of "outstanding" students - those with matriculation grades of 85 or over - in the higher-level math exams continued to fall last year. In level 4 math, it dropped from 45 percent three years ago to 40 percent last year, and in level 5, from 63 to 58 percent.

The percentage of outstanding students also dropped in the higher-level English matriculation exams.

But non-Jewish students who took the higher-level exams had a higher proportion of outstanding grades than their Jewish peers did, the report said.

In the report's introduction, Rahela Sheffer, formerly the director of the Education Ministry's testing branch, implicitly criticized the growing number of testing opportunities available to students today, including "moed bet" - retests for those unhappy with their original scores - and winter exam dates alongside the traditional summer dates. She noted that high school students today can choose from 11 different test dates - three times the number available to students eight years ago.

"The decision that in a retest, the higher score will be the one included on the certificate has raised the number of test-takers and released them from having to make any cost-benefit calculations" when choosing how many tests to take, she wrote.