The Ministry of Education has published data on the General Education Measures in Schools (GEMS) for 2015 Tuesday, comparing student achievements to the 2013 academic year.
Overall, student achievement improved across all subjects and grade levels in Israel's elementary and middle schools, with gradual improvement in educational climates and pedagogy, the report states.
Significant gaps still exist in educational quality between children of higher and lower socioeconomic levels, however, with a direct correlation between a higher socioeconomic status and better education.
Key findings include:
- Fifth grade achievement levels: Between 2013 and 2015, the level of achievement for native Hebrew-speaking fifth-graders remained the same, as well as across the board in mathematics. Native Arabic speakers in the fifth grade scored 14 points lower, however, than in 2013; overall English-language studies also saw a decline, with current students scoring 10 points lower than 2 years ago.
- By eighth grade, however, achievement seems to have improved: native Hebrew-speaking Israeli eighth-graders in 2015 scored, on average, 13 points higher in mathematics and English than their 2013 counterparts. Arabic speakers' mathematics proficiency in the eighth grade has declined by 28 points. All Israeli eight graders in 2015 score slightly lower on science and technology tests (7 points) than in 2013.
- Differences between achievements for Hebrew and Arabic speakers: While ethnic gaps still cause a difference in the quality of education in mathematics, English, and science for children in grades 5-7, that gap has narrowed significantly over the past several years. The gap between the achievements of Hebrew-speaking and Arabic-speaking students in mathematics and English is narrower in 2015 than in 2013; the gap in science studies remains the same. Despite this, the mathematics gap for Israeli eighth-graders has widened since 2013.
- The socioeconomic gap: Socioeconomics were proven to be a significant factor in student achievements for all Israeli students, everywhere.
- In 2015, the socioeconomic gap among native Hebrew speakers in mathematics and English in fifth grade is significantly smaller than in 2013. Amongst Arabic-speakers, socioeconomic gaps have widened and worsened academic achievements amongst poorer students; a significant socioeconomic factor was also seen among all Israeli students in other subjects.
- Hebrew-speakers from poor families in eighth grade in 2015 score 18 points higher on mathematics exams, on average, than their 2013 counterparts; Arabic speakers in the eighth grade score 14 points higher.
- Differences between student achievements in secular public schools and national-religious public schools: Israeli students from rich families in secular public schools score significantly higher on English exams than Israeli students in national-religious public schools. Once socioeconomic factors are taken into account, however, the average difference in English achievements between secular and religious students overall narrows to a mere five-point difference.
- Bedouin students and meeting educational goals: The Bedouin sector in southern Israel has shown especially low levels of academic achievement in two years, the report reveals.
- On average, Bedouin students do far poorer in school than their Druze or Arab counterparts – a trend which has persisted since the assessment began.
- For example, Bedouin students score, on average 105 points lower on fifth-grade native-Arabic exams than their Israeli Arab counterparts.
- Pedagogical changes:
- Schools have dramatically increased their emphasis on diversity, tolerance, and social integration since 2015 – both in schools serving the Hebrew-speaking and Arabic-speaking populations.
- From elementary school to middle school and beyond, parents have become increasingly more involved with their childrens' education in the past two years, and Israeli parents are in a greater degree of contact with their childrens' teachers.
- Students in the upper grades increasingly see school as a place to learn life skills for adulthood.
- Middle school students, more than ever, are given homework that involves internet research, across all sectors.
- In the Arabic-speaking sector, middle school students reported an increased sense of security in school in 2015, and teachers reported a higher level of class decorum.
- Theft and absenteeism has increased in middle schools in both sectors, also reversing a downward trend.
- Teacher-student relationships: 66% of pupils in primary schools reported that they feel a sense of rapport and caring from their teachers, compared with less than half of middle school students (48%) and high school students (42%).
- Vandalism in Arabic-speaking schools has risen dramatically since 2013, the first increase in several years after a downward trend.
- Overall, vandalism was reported in 32% of elementary schools, 47% of middle schools, and 48% of secondary schools.