A complete collapse in the achievements of Arab education in Israel. This is the picture that emerges from the PISA 2018 exam grades for 9th graders. In the three areas of the test, Arab students achieved a decline, as well as peak gaps between Hebrew and Arabic students, with the average gap being 124 points. 54% of Arab students were classified as having difficulty in all three areas together, compared to only 12% among Jews. The gaps between strong and weak students in Israel are also highest in all the countries examined in all three subjects.
The findings are particularly difficult in light of the fact that in recent years the ministry has been investing in increasing amounts of elementary schools in the Arab sector that were supposed to bring about improvements. Minister of Education Rabbi Rafi Peretz ordered the establishment of a committee to examine the failure of the reform.
The OECD Developed Countries conducts the PISA test once every three years to see how students are ready for adult life and the job market. 78 countries participated in the PISA 2018 cycle, including all 37 OECD countries, and over half a million students. The study mainly examines the proficiency level in three areas - reading, math and science.
Israel's average reading score (Hebrew or Arabic) stood at 470 points in PISA 2018, a decrease of 9 points. The average, as in other professions, was significantly lower than the average score of the OECD countries, which stood at 487. This brought Israel to the 29th place, not among the 37 developing countries.
Israel's math average was 463, down 7 points. This compares with the average of the developed countries, which stood at 489 points. Israel was ranked 32 in the OECD.
Israel's average in science was 462 points, down 5 points. The average for the developed countries was 489 points, which represents a significant gap of 27 points from the average. Israel ranks 33rd, fifth from the end among the developed countries in the National Measurement and Evaluation Authority (RMA), however, notes that Israel's decline in the score is not considered significant.
In any case, the average score in the Jewish sector has hardly changed. The declines were almost only affected by the large declines in scores in the Arab sector. The Arab sector average would place it at the end of the OECD. Furthermore, it is located in all professions in the last 10 of the 78 countries selected, more than half of which are not members of the organization.
The reading decreased by an average of 29 points in the Arab sector and the gap from Hebrew speakers reached 144 points. Mathematics dropped by 12 points and the gap reached 111 points. In science, the decline in Arabic speakers was 26 points and the gap reached 116 points. In all cases, these are the all-time highs.
These are not the only difficult gaps that have emerged between the two sectors. Among Hebrew speakers, 4% of students excelled in all three areas. Among the Arab students, the number of outstanding students was zero. 12% of Hebrew speakers had difficulty in all three areas, compared to a majority of 53% of Arabic speakers. The overall hardening rate in Israel was 22% much higher than the average of developed countries, which was only 13%.
Significant discrepancies between students were also found on economic grounds. The gaps in achievement between students from high and low economic backgrounds are 114 points in reading, 99 points in math and 103 points in science. These gaps have widened compared to PISA 2015.
The dispersion of grades (the gap between the 5th and the 95th percentile of the grades) in Israel is the largest in the OECD and among all the countries examined in all three subjects. In other words, the difference in grades in Israel between strong students and weak students is the world's largest. In reading, the dispersion index stands at 407 points in Israel compared to 327 points in the OECD average, in mathematics 356 points in Israel compared to 297 points in the developed countries average, and in science 361 points in Israel compared to 306 points in the OECD average.
The data is a serious blow to the Ministry of Education. In recent years, the Ministry has significantly increased the budgets for schools in the weaker classes in general and in the Arab sector in particular through differential budgeting favoring weak schools. A student in the weak quintile in 2018 received a 37% higher budget than a student in the strong quintile. This reform was implemented gradually between 2014 and 2019 under the days of Ministers Shay Piron and Naphtali Bennett, but now it turns out that the results were the opposite.