Beit Jann, one of Israel’s poorest towns, produced the country’s highest percentage of students to successfully pass the high school matriculation exams (bagrut) in 2013-2014.
In the predominantly Druze town in the Galilee, 94.39 percent of students matriculated, a 2.5 percent increase over the previous year, when Beit Jann took second place, according to data released by the Education Ministry. After topping the list for two years, Kochav Yair, a town with a much higher socioeconomic status, slipped to second place, with 92.11 percent of its students receiving a bagrut.
However, the Education Ministry includes only twelfth graders in the data, meaning that students who drop out before then are excluded. In 2014, the dropout rate rose to 19.5 percent, roughly 24,525 students, an increase from 17 percent the year before. If the ministry were to include all students in matriculation rates, and not just those enrolled in twelfth grade, it’s likely both the overall matriculation rates and those of individual communities would be much lower.
Haaretz requested that the ministry provide full information, including the numbers of matriculating students from all over Israel, as well as the rates for all students as opposed to only those enrolled in twelfth grade. The Education Ministry responded that such data were unavailable.
MK Yossi Yonah (Zionist Union) commented on the data, noting “it’s not surprising that the Education Ministry doesn’t publish the number of students in every class, and that in order to present ‘high’ matriculation rates, it’s best to exclude students who dropped out over the years.”
Aside from the partial data, the comparison between different towns and cities is also problematic. For example, there are many towns, like Beit Jann and Kafr Qasem, with only one high school, whereas large cities such as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem have many high schools. In the smaller towns, an additional handful of matriculating students leads to a significant rise in the overall percentage, while in the larger cities, hundreds of students are necessary to make any kind of statistical difference.
In Kokhav Yair, for example, there is no high school, and students attend classes in nearby Kfar Saba, which means that Kfar Saba is actually responsible for any academic achievements.
Jerusalem, which is ranked near the bottom of the list, has protested the comparisons between various towns, which municipal officials believe discriminate against larger, mixed cities like the capital. A Jerusalem municipality statement read “data on matriculation rates published by the Education Ministry today do not reflect the reality in Jerusalem, and include students from the ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities which learn in separate institutions and do not take the ministry’s matriculation exams.”
The municipality statement continued, “during the 2013-2014 school year, 8 schools from the ultra-Orthodox and Arab sectors began administering matriculation exams to their students, which will increase the number of matriculating students over the coming years. We are seeing a growing trend among both of these populations reflecting higher demand to take the Education Ministry’s matriculation exams.”
According to the data published by the Education Ministry, the cities or towns with the highest rates of matriculation, aside from Beit Jann and Kochav Yair, are the Hof Hasharon regional council, with a 91.3 percent rate, which is a 12.31 percent increase over last year and Givat Shmuel, with a total matriculation rate of 90.71 percent. Behind them are Mazkeret Batya, with 87.6 percent, Kadima-Tzuran, with 87.5 percent, Shoham with 87.2 percent, despite a drop of 2.85 percent from last year. With the exception of Beit Jann, all of the towns or cities that top the list have a relatively high socioeconomic status, which makes Beit Jann’s achievement that much more significant.
As in the last few years, Ultra-Orthodox cities or towns and Bedouin villages had the lowest matriculation rates. The ultra-Orthodox town of Modi’in Ilit ranked last place with only 7.33 percent, while among other Haredi locales, Bnei Brak had 9.21 percent, and Beitar Illit, 9.83 percent. Ranking slightly higher were the Arab town of Jisr al-Zarqa, with 26.2 percent, preceded by the Negev Bedouin town of Rahat with 40.93 percent, a drop of 5.65 percent from last year.
The towns with the most significant increases in matriculation rates were the Eshkol regional council near the Gaza border, with a spike of 16.91 percent to 77.6 percent. The central Arab town of Kfar Kasem jumped 14.85 percent to a 51.09 percent matriculation rate.
The overall matriculation rate among 17-year-olds in Israel in the 2013-2014 school year was 52.7 percent, a slight drop from the 53.4 percent the preceding year. At the same time, the rate of matriculation among students who make it to twelfth grade continues to rise, with 65.5 percent this year as opposed to 64.2 percent last year.