Parents Paying More for Children’s Education

Share of total school costs rose to 29% last year from 21.7% in 2009

Lior Dattel
Lior Dattel
School-age parents are feeling the squeeze as public education gets even more expensive in Israel.
School-age parents are feeling the squeeze as public education gets even more expensive in Israel.Credit: Bloomberg
Lior Dattel
Lior Dattel

Israel’s parents are bearing more and more of the burden for educating their children.

Preliminary figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics relased on Tuesday showed that last year parents spent 24 billion shekels ($6.8 billion) on school-related expenses, an inflation-adjusted 66% rise over the past five years as the proportion of school costs that the government covers has fallen.

Traditionally, parents have paid for books, supplements for extra teaching hours, after-school activities and school trips. They’re now being asked to pay for laptops and tablets (see story below). Many parents also buy — whether they can afford it or not — private tutoring for their children.

All told, last year parents were paying 29% of all education costs, up from 21.7% in 2009, the CBS said. Meanwhile, the share of school costs paid by the government — including local authorities and funds provided by government-supported nonprofit organizations — dropped to 71% from 78.3% five years earlier, CBS figures showed.

The trend comes despite the 2011 social-justice protests, where one of the key grievances was the high cost of education and rearing children.

In fact, the next year saw a big increase in the parents’ share of school costs, a 4.5-percentage-point jump to 28.1% of total costs. The next year, even as the government began offering free preschool education for three- and four-year-olds, the parents’ contribution to their children’s schooling rose further.

The Israeli government’s share of educational costs puts it at the lower end of members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The average for OECD countries in 2010, the most recent year for which figures are available, was 83.6% versus 77.6% for Israel, according to OECD figures. Japan spent 70.2% and the U.S. 69.4%, while in Finland, the state covered 97.6% of all costs. The figures were 97.5% in Sweden, 90% in Italy and 80.5% in Mexico.

Moreover, the OECD figures show that overall spending for schooling in Israel is relatively low, too. In 2010, Israel spent an average of $3,910 on all students over age three, just 58% of the OECD average of $6,762.

Since 2007, Israel has been spending a bigger portion of gross domestic product on education: Last year alone, total educational spending reached 83.4 billion shekels, or 7.9% of GDP and an 8.2% rise from 2012. But the increases stem from more students, higher prices and raises for teachers, not more spending per pupil.

In 2009, education spending equaled 7.5% of GDP, not much lower than it was four years later. In the 1990s, educational spending was 9.1% of GDP. What has increased is education’s share of total government spending, which grew to 18.1% last year from 15.5% in 2012.

The biggest provider of educational services is not the government itself but non-profit organizations, such as ORT and Amal, and the universities and colleges, which account for 30% of the total. The central government accounts for 29% while local authorities provide 24%, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

Private education services, which include everything from private tutors to test-prep companies and classes in public school run by businesses, accounted for 9%. Thirty years ago they accounted for only 2% of educational spending.

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