Something is wrong with the Israeli education system

In light of the ongoing strike of the education system in IL, i took a few minutes to browse the recent UNESCO report comparing the school education systems across the globe (the full report in PDF is here).

I have start with a warning that i did not read the 200+ pages. I did glance at the graphs and the numbers, as well as occasional mentions of Israel in the text. That brief glance left me a little bit puzzled. If my understanding of the report is correct, the Israeli numbers are not that bad. They are not that bad both in terms of performance, but more so in terms of investment in education. But something is fundamentally not working.

On the one hand, Israel is far from being at the bottom in terms of the investment in education proportionally to its GDP (22.3% for primary education and 22.7% for secondary in 2005, with 71.7% going to the salaries). This is contrary to the argument of the striking teachers claiming further public investment in the education system. On the other hand, Israel seems to have one of the highest proportions of private investment in education (2.1 of GDP in 2005). This suggests that there is room for further government involvement.

The main question is why with all this investment things seem not to work well? Although the report does not assess the quality of students’ knowledge, the numbers it sites are of people who actually finish school, and that nears 100% in Israel (which is also much higher than what i’ve heard so far). But something is still not working… something is wrong in the system? Or is it me misreading the report?

A couple of interesting facts before i stop. First, when it comes to “Top five destinations (host countries) for outbound mobile students” the numbers are: U.S.A. (3,471), Jordan (1,695), Germany (1,225), United Kingdom (1,122), Italy (1,002). Just to remind you, these number refer to school students. However i am still wondering who are the students studying in Jordan (second largest group) and i was really surprised to see Italy in the top four. Another peculiar issue is that the geographical group for Israel was North America and Western Europe. I understand that it is probably according to the level of development, but still… :)

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