school - Emil Salman - September 14 2011
A mother hugging her child on the first day of school in a Beit Shemesh classroom earlier this month. Photo by Emil Salman
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Israel invests less per schoolchild than any other developed country and new high school teachers here earn only about half as much as their counterparts in OECD countries.

These are a few of the findings released yesterday in the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation's annual report, "Education at a Glance," which surveys state investment in education in developed countries between 2008-2009.

According to the report, the average annual investment per schoolchild in Israel - from pre-school through high school - is $5521, compared to an average of $7069 in OECD countries.

Yet the report also shows that the total national expenditure in educational institutions, from the elementary school level through high school, is higher in Israel than in other countries. In Israel, educational expenditures constitute 4.2% of the national budget, compared to an average of 3.8% in OECD countries. Officials at Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics account for these findings by noting that Israel has a higher percentage of young people than the other countries, meaning that there is a relatively high number of schoolchildren, and a relatively low number of working citizens who can help fund education.

Officials at Israel's Education Ministry note that birth rates in Israel are higher than those in European countries.

The new report also shows that in OECD countries secondary school teachers earn more than elementary school teachers, in contrast to Israel, where high school teachers earn 14% less than elementary school teachers.

The starting salary of an elementary school teacher in Israel is $18,935 a year, or 36% less than that of their European counterparts who earn $29,767. The gap decreases for experienced elementary school teachers, with Israeli ones earning an annual salary of $42,425 - 11% less than teachers in OECD countries.

But the gap is much greater for high school teachers, with OECD ones taking home a starting salary of $33,044 - nearly double that of Israeli high school teachers who earn just $16,715 a year. For veteran high school teachers the gap narrows slightly to 29%, with a high school teacher with maximum seniority in Israel earning $37,874 a year, compared to a $53,651 for veteran high school teachers in OECD countries.

Israeli teachers also spend less time in the classroom than their OECD counterparts - 600 hours a year, compared to an average of 701 hours. By contrast, teachers in Argentina, Mexico, Chile and the United States spend an average of 1,000 hours a year in the classroom. A high school teacher in Israel spends an average of less than 3 hours in class each school day.

It is worth noting that the report relates to 2008-2009, when the "New Horizon" reform was just beginning to be implemented in Israeli elementary schools, and prior to the forging of a new agreement with secondary school teachers, which is being implemented only this year, and which promises to gradually raise teacher salaries by 50%. Under these two reforms, the average number of hours spent by teachers in elementary and secondary school classrooms will rise significantly.

The report notes that classroom size in Israel is also large. Elementary schools in Israel have an average of 27.4 pupils per class, compared to the OECD average of 21.4 pupils.