Haredi and Bedouin High Schoolers Continue to Lag Behind in Matriculation Scores

The latest statistics released by the Education Ministry make it difficult to discern the growing gaps in the education system among the various communities.

11th graders in a Tel Aviv high school taking a test, February 23, 2011.
Nir Kafri

Following the trend of previous years, the number of students taking the most difficult level of math and English matriculation exams in the 2014–2015 school year in Bedouin and ultra-Orthodox communities was very low compared to the national average.

The figures of how many students took the 5-unit — or hardest level — matriculation exam in these subjects were released by the Education Ministry three days before the beginning of the new school year, and a month after the rest of the statistics for the education system.

In the past, the ministry provided a comparison in matriculation figures between the country’s various school systems — ultra-Orthodox, state-run religious, state-run secular and Arab — which made the numbers easier to analyze. This year, however, the statistics reflected only the national figures, with no possibility to compare the achievements of the different school system.

Ministry officials said they had the figures in the more accessible format, but declined to show them to reporters in order to prevent comparisons between communities.

The Education Ministry said that it “encourages the transparency of educational work but firmly opposes 'league tables' for ranking schools. That being the case, the indexes are not weighted into one grade, but each index stands alone, both on the national level and the level of the local council and the school.” On one hand, it appears that the ministry is indeed trying to encourage transparency, but on the other, it makes it more difficult to discern the growing gaps in the education system among the various communities.

The ministry allowed journalists only a few hours to look at the reports before they were released, making it difficult to make deeper sense of them.

On average, 10.4 percent of students nationwide take the most difficult level matriculation exam, known as the bagrut, in math, while the figure for the same level English exam is 31.9 percent.

In the towns of Immanuel, Bir al-Maksur, Rahat, Jisr al-Zarqa and Betar Ilit, not a single student sat for the 5-unit matriculation exam in math. There were no students in Immanuel or Jisr al-Zarqa who took the 5-unit English matriculation exam; only between 1 and 3 percent of students in Betar Ilit and the Negev Bedouin towns of al-Kasom and Rahat and Segev Shalom did.

The ministry also released other data, like the number of school dropouts and the number of those receiving special considerations in testing, such as extra allotted time, having the exam read to them or the disregard of spelling mistakes. Figures for students who excelled in their exams were also announced.

A partial analysis of the figures shows that like the previous year, Beit Jann in the Galilee had a very high number of students passing their matriculation exams — 95 percent of all students residing in the Druze town.

In the central Israeli town of Kokhav Yair, which usually appears at the top of the list next to Beit Jann, 93 percent of all students in the community matriculated in 2014–2015. There is no high school in Kokhav Yair; most of the students study in the nearby city of Kfar Sava. Another community with high matriculation rates is Har Adar in the Judean Mountains, with 92 percent; the national average is 66.1 percent.

As in previous years, matriculation rates were low in ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities, with Bnei Brak at 9 percent, Betar Ilit at 16 percent and Jisr al-Zarqa at 17 percent. On average, 10.23 percent of 17-year-old ultra-Orthodox students pass the matriculation exams; the percentage among the Negev Bedouin is 32.3.

The communities with the highest number of dropouts were Bu’eneh Nujeidat and Immanuel with 5.7 percent, Al-Qasom with 4.3 percent and Segev Shalom with 3.8 percent. The national dropout rate is 1.46 percent.

The ministry noted that “In the past indexes related only to the numbers of students eligible for a matriculation certificate, which created the mistaken impression that eligibility for a matriculation certificate is the be-all and end-all.” Officials added that the community, educational and social values imparted in the schools were not given proper exposure because schools were evaluated only by matriculation figures.