Every fourth new Israeli teacher leaves the education system within five years, with every third high-school teacher calling it quits over the same period.
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Figures released by the Central Bureau of Statistics show that while the teacher dropout rate has improved slightly in recent years, the numbers still reflect a major problem.
Over the past 15 years, 23 percent of elementary-school teachers have left the profession within five years, compared with 33 percent at junior high schools and 37 percent at high schools.
Training a teacher costs the government around 130,000 shekels ($34,160), so the loss of so many teachers is an expensive proposition.
Male teachers have a greater tendency to leave early than women teachers, and better-educated teachers leave earlier as well, including those with higher scores on standardized tests. The gap between these groups, however, has been shrinking over the past 15 years — including that for high and less-stellar scorers on standardized tests.
New teachers who score 501 points or more on the psychometric exam leave at a 24 percent rate within three years, compared with 14 percent who score 500 or lower.
Also encouraging is that teachers who survive past five years tend to remain for much longer. The annual dropout rate for these teachers is about 1 percent in elementary school and 2 percent in the higher grades.
In another improvement, fewer teachers are leaving within their first year — this number has fallen to 13.2 percent between 2008 and 2011 from 15.6 percent between 2000 and 2002. The situation has been similar for within three years — the number has fallen to 20.8 percent between 2007 and 2009 from 24.2 percent between 2000 and 2002.
For within five years, the number has fallen to 24.2 percent between 2005 and 2007 from 28.3 percent between 2000 and 2002.
There are differences in how quickly teachers leave in the various school systems. For example, in state and state-religious elementary schools, fewer teachers are leaving early, while in Arab schools more are. But this does not apply for secondary schools.
Even though male teachers tend to have a higher dropout rate, the burnout numbers for female teachers have been rising in recent years. In any case, some 29 percent of new male teachers leave within the first three years, compared with 19 percent of women.
Figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics also show that women teachers with many years of experience earn more than women in general.
Also, for early departures, the older the teacher the higher the burnout rate. For new teachers leaving within three years, the leaving rate for educators over 40 is nearly twice that for those 29 or younger — 35 percent compared with 18 percent.
Within three years, among teachers with master’s degrees or higher, 24 percent leave, compared with 17 percent with bachelor’s degrees. This is true even though the number of teachers with higher degrees who leave early has dropped significantly over the past 15 years.