OECD report finds Israeli classes over-crowded, teachers underpaid

Written by on September 8, 2020

Israel mentioned at the bottom when the issue is educational programs that join classes with on-hand experience to ensure future employment.

FIRST DAY BACK at Tel Aviv’s Gabrieli Carmel School, September 1, 2020 (photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)

FIRST DAY BACK at Tel Aviv’s Gabrieli Carmel School, September 1, 2020

(photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)

Israel has some of the most over-crowded school classes in the developed world, according to a Tuesday report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) titled “Education at a Glance.”  

Among elementary school children, classes are 25% more crowded than the OECD average, with 26.4 children per class compared to the average of 21.1.  

The gap remains in high school with an Israeli class having, on average, 28.2 children to 23.3 in the developed world, KAN reported on Tuesday.

It should be noted that the data is true for the previous year, before COVID-19 struck, and thanks to the new “capsules”method employed by the Education Ministry, each class now has 18 children per “capsula,” which is below the OECD average.  

The capsules method is currently used for children at fifth grade level or higher; kindergartens and other grades do not use it.  

Kindergarten teachers earn 3% more than their colleagues in other countries. This seems to be the exception to the rule as elementary and high-school teachers earn 6% less.  

Israeli children study 958 hours per year to 804 hours in the OECD. Despite the long-hours, Israeli children score badly on international tests such as the one issued by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2018, which found that Israel leads the world regarding gaps between the various groups that compose its society.

Arab-Israeli students, the PISA study found last year, are at the bottom of all OECD students.

The top nation for reading skills, math and science in 2018 was China.    

“Don’t forget, we ignore the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) children by not testing them at all – and they’re the fastest growing group in the country,” Shoresh Foundation President Prof. Dan Ben David told The Jerusalem Post. “Had we tested the haredi kids, Israel would have done a lot worse.”

According to Ben David, one should be careful when dealing with the data being presented.

“We actually spent more money on education this year than on defense,” he said, “so the issue isn’t lack of money: it’s how we spend that money.”

“Israeli children learn more hours than other kids in the OECD,” he explained, “but that doesn’t mean teachers teach more hours. Teachers work five days a week, kids are at school for six days. The children study more because they get more teachers teaching them, not because they have a teacher who is doing overtime,” Ben David said.

“If you check how much teachers here are paid per hour, it’s actually more than teachers in the OECD,” he said, “it’s just that teachers elsewhere teach more hours and so get higher paychecks.”

He added that Israel has a larger birth rate than most OECD countries yet Israeli salaries aren’t as large. If you factor in all these things, Israel would be an average OECD nation, with students who are doing badly.  

The OECD report placed Israel next to Estonia as a nation with few programs (30%) that offer studies and on-hand training to ensure future employment, especially when compared with Finland or Austria (80%). The latter countries enjoy the highest employment rates for adults in the developed world, the report claimed.

The fields such vocational training programs focus on include construction and engineering, which are vital for growth in any economy, but especially now during COVID-19. 

Education Minister Yoav Gallant called the national education system “the chief engine” of Israeli economy and “a condition to it being a prosperous country and an advanced society.”  

He said the ministry will invest NIS 1.2 billion to improve online education options in schools as well as offering children who don’t have a computer at home a chance to borrow one from their school library.   

About 20% of the nation’s children won’t have a computer in the near future despite the best efforts on that front, because there is not enough of a budget and the delivery process will take time.

The Tuesday report isn’t much different from the one issued by the OECD last year.

Israel invests more than most OECD nations in education, yet spends far less on the students themselves. An Israeli kindergarten child gets 35% less than an OECD toddler, and when entering first grade, 11% less, N12 reported last year.  

In a street lecture he gave in Jerusalem last month, Ben David joked that there is one thing the OECD measured but couldn’t understand – the Israeli spirit.  

“When children are asked about hard topics, such as genetics, and the testers ask: ‘Are you sure you understand this topic?’ The leading students are aware that these are complex issues so they say “No” or “I don’t know,” he said. “With Israeli children it’s the opposite: They test badly but their confidence is amazing. High level math? Not an issue – what do you want to know?”  

“Imagine,” he said, “that we could take this mental attitude of daring confidence, which is basically our cultural DNA, and actually back it up with knowledge. What amazing things these children could do.” 

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