Dramatic Rise in Number of Arabs in Israel Studying STEM

The past five years have seen the number of Arabs studying tech-related subjects shoot up over 65 percent - but challenges remain

Ruti Levy
Ruti Levy
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Illustration photo of students in Israel: New data reveals a massive uptick in the number of Israeli Arabs studying STEM subjects
Illustration photo of students in Israel: New data reveals a massive uptick in the number of Israeli Arabs studying STEM subjects Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovich
Ruti Levy
Ruti Levy

The number of Arabs majoring in computer science, math, computer engineering and electronics rose in the 2019/20 academic year to 4,534 students, a 12 percent rise over the previous year. In the 2015/16 academic year the number of STEM students from Israel’s Arab population was only 2,691, meaning that in those few years the number rose by 68 percent. During those same years, the total number of Arab undergraduates rose only 30 percent.

In other words, two out of every 11 Arab undergraduates during the 2019/20 school year studied a subject, compared to two out of every nine Jewish students; they now make up 15 percent of the students in those subjects sampled. Israel’s Arab community makes up about 21 percent of the population. 

The data was analyzed and provided by the Tsofen organization, which seeks to facilitate the integration of Arabs into high-tech and expand high-tech employment in Arab towns.

Sami Saadi, founder and co-CEO of Tsofen, was pleased with the data but noted, “After their studies, There are still thousands of high-tech employers who do not recruit Arabs.”

He noted this was not just an issue of racism, “But a lack of adjustment and sensitivity to cultural gaps. The distance, the ‘friend brings a friend’ method [of hiring] and relying on military experience, the screening and the interviews – all these lead to a failure in making local high-tech accessible to an educated population that could contribute to it.”

Sami Saadi, founder of Tsofen: 'Arab students face the challenge of entering the workforce. There are still thousands of high-tech employers who do not recruit Arabs'
Sami Saadi, founder of Tsofen: 'Arab students face the challenge of entering the workforce. There are still thousands of high-tech employers who do not recruit Arabs'Credit: Courtesy

Tsofen estimates that every year another 700 Arabs join Israeli high-tech firms. In 2019 the organization was responsible or 350 new placements of Arab academics who hadn’t been employed in the field previously. In 2020, despite the coronavirus crisis, the organization has already made 250 placements. “We are prepared to come to any employer who is interested to present future candidates,” Saadi said.

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