Arab, ultra-Orthodox Schools Have Fewer Teachers per Student

Disparities in student-teacher ratio and teaching hours among different sectors of society are inherently linked to gaps in funding

A vocational high school in Yavneh, December 12, 2018.
Ilan Assayag

There are significant disparities in the student-teacher ratio among the country’s various public educational streams, data released by the Central Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday show. While the average number of students per teacher in state religious schools is just 8.9, and the state secular system employs on average one teacher per 10.9 students. The ratio is 11.3 students per teacher in Arab schools on average and 12.9 students per teacher in ultra-Orthodox, Haredi schools, as they are known in Hebrew.

The figures relate to all teaching staff at the country’s schools, including not only regular classroom teachers but also administrators and counseling staff. The disparities are particularly pronounced at the high school level. The student-teacher ratio is 5.2:1 in state religious schools, 7.6:1 in state secular schools and 10.4:1 in high schools in the Arab school system. Among ultra-Orthodox high schools, most of which are not government-run, and therefore don’t receive full funding from the government, the average ratio is 14.1 students per student.

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The gap among the various streams is also reflected in the average number of teaching hours, ranging from 76.1 per week in the state religious system to 75.6 in the state secular system, 70.8 in the Arab system and 46.6 in ultra-Orthodox schools. The tally of hours not only includes regular classroom instructional time but other functions, among them one-one-one time between teachers and students.

The disparity in hours is part of a larger problem involving differing levels of funding for education. The average amount spent in 2017 per student at Arab elementary schools in communities with the poorest socioeconomic conditions was 18,000 shekels ($5,000). By contrast, the investment per Jewish pupil at a school in areas with an equivalent socioeconomic level was a little over 21,000 shekels. And on average, funding per Jewish high school student was about 30 percent higher than per Arab high school student: 29,491 shekels versus 22,642 shekels. In an effort to narrow the gaps, two months ago, the Education Ministry began implementing a differential funding model for Arab high schools, providing additional funding for high schools in communities of low socioeconomic standing.

The data show that the percentage of teachers in Hebrew-language schools who lack an academic degree has dropped from 19.3 percent a decade ago to 7.2 percent in the current school year. In Arab schools, the situation is better, with just 3.3 percent of teachers currently lacking an academic degree. In addition, 36 percent of teachers in Hebrew education have a master’s degree or higher, a 10 percent rise compared to the 2009-2010 school year. In Arab schools, 31.6 percent of teachers have a master’s degree or higher, compared to 13 percent a decade ago.