Study: Ethiopian Israelis Report Being Bullied More Than Other Kids at School

Education Ministry study: Immigrants from former Soviet Union also report more negative school experiences than native Israelis; Western-born students fare about the same as locally born peers.

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FILE PHOTO: Ethiopian Israelis schoolchildren
FILE PHOTO: Ethiopian Israelis schoolchildrenCredit: Alon Ron
Yarden Skop
Yarden Skop

Ethiopian-born children and teens report a more negative experience at school than native-born Israelis of the same age, according to a new Education Ministry study.

For example, in junior high schools, Ethiopian immigrants reported a higher incidence of being ridiculed by classmates due to their background than "sabras" their age: 31 percent compared to 13 percent of locally born students. In addition, 23 percent of the teens born in the former Soviet Union reported that classmates bullied them because of their origins.

Haaretz investigation: Ethiopian Israelis’ 1st encounter with bias is at school

Of particular concern was the fact that 12 percent of the Ethiopian newcomers reported being subject to violence on the part of their teachers – compared to 5 percent of Israeli-born seventh- to ninth-graders. The authors of the report stressed the exceptional disparity in this regard.

Ethiopian immigrants arriving in Israel, in 2013. Only 68 percent of junior high school-aged newcomers said they felt secure and safe, compared to 76 percent of "sabras."Credit: Daniel Bar-On

The ministry study also revealed that Ethiopian-born junior-high students had a more negative feeling vis-à-vis their school environment. For example, only 68 percent said they felt secure and safe, as compared to 76 percent of students born in the country.

Researchers Oshrit Cohen-Kdoshay and Yossi Machluf noted that the discrepancy between the experiences reported by immigrant children and those of their native-born peers could be the result of cultural or socioeconomic differences – or may be related to whether the students are studying at state-religious schools or secular institutions.

It is noteworthy, however, that the experience of young Western European and North American newcomers was more similar to their Israeli-born peers, according to the study. The authors explain that this shows that these immigrants are being more successfully integrated into the country's education system than their other foreign-born classmates.

Fifth- and sixth-graders born in the former Soviet Union reported feeling less secure at school than their sabra classmates: 74 percent as opposed to 82 percent of native-born children. In addition, 16 percent of these newcomers were involved in incidents of violence that were reported to the authorities, in contrast with 11 percent of native Israelis. In this same elementary school-age group, 22 percent of the newcomers – as compared to 11 percent of children born in the country – said they were ridiculed by classmates because of their backgrounds.

Fifth- and sixth-graders born in Ethiopia generally had a more negative outlook about school than their Israeli-born contemporaries: Thirty-four percent reported that classmates made fun of them because of their background – three times the incidence among native-born children of the same age. Moreover, the study showed that the rate at which children of Ethiopian descent who were born in Israel reported being subjected to ridicule was similar to that reported by youngsters who were actually born in Ethiopia.

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