OECD Report: Israel's Education System Increases the Gap Between Rich and Poor

A recent report reveals that only 5.4% of disadvantaged students in Israel attend schools where most students are from 'advantaged' backgrounds

FILE Photo: Students attend class.
Gil Eliyahu

Just over half – 51% – of Israeli children from households of low socioeconomic status attend schools where standards are also below average, according to findings released Tuesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

This is significant because integrating disadvantaged students into better-off schools increases the likelihood that students from poor socioeconomic backgrounds will achieve scholastic success, according to the OECD report, “Equity in Education.”

In Israel only 5.4% of disadvantaged students attend schools where most students are from “advantaged” backgrounds. The OECD average is 6.4%. Generally these are students whose parents seek out the best schools in the area.

The disparities in Israel may be greater than in other OECD member states, but Israel is not alone.

“Too little headway has been made to break down the barriers to social mobility and give all children an equal chance to succeed,” said Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills. “More investment is needed to help disadvantaged students do better, including recognition of the critical role that teachers have to play.” 

Referring to the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment standardized test, the organization said in a summary that the report “finds a strong link between a school’s socioeconomic profile and a student’s performance: students who attend more socioeconomically advantaged schools perform better in PISA. Yet, on average across OECD countries, 48% of disadvantaged students attended disadvantaged schools in 2015 and there has been no significant change in segregation levels in most countries over the past decade.”

The report attaches importance to integrating children from various socioeconomic backgrounds in school. It notes the relative success of the Scandinavian countries and states that in Finland, Norway and Sweden, fewer than 43% of students from disadvantaged backgrounds attend disadvantaged schools, compared to Israel’s 51%.

As has been reported in TheMarker in the past, all of the international achievement testing programs in which Israel participates show the disparities in academic achievement based on socioeconomic status are among the highest in Israel and that the Israeli education system is failing to bridge the disparities and is even a factor in causing them.

The disparities persist into university studies. According to a separate OECD report, 56% of Israelis between the ages of 18 and 24 come from families in which the parents had no higher education.

This first generation of university students is underrepresented in the country’s colleges and universities, where they constitute 39% of the students.