Newly released scores in mathematics, science and literacy show signs of improvement among Israeli youth but despite positive trends, gaps continue to persist between Hebrew-speaking and Arabic-speaking youth. Recently released, results on the TIMSS (Trends in Mathematics and Science Study) exam from 2011 rank Israeli fourth-and eighth-graders seventh, and 13th in science, a vast improvement from ranking 24th and 25th respectively in 2007 when the test was last administered. Measuring the reading levels of fourth-grade students every five years, the PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) exam ranked Israel in 18th place. In total, 63 countries participated in the math and science exam, and 49 took part in the reading test.
Although these scores document improvement among Israeli youth in all sectors of society, a closer investigation reveals a troubling gap in achievement between Hebrew and Arabic speaking students. On the math and science exam, for example, Hebrew speakers ranked sixth, while Arabic speakers came in at 21st. An even more pronounced gap in the literacy exam showed Hebrew speakers ranking 3rd, compared to a 34th place ranking among Arabic speakers. Although these scores highlight disparities, the fact that even Arabic speaking students showed improvement is a positive development.
In comparison, the U.S. ranked sixth in reading, eleventh in fourth grade math, ninth in eight grade math, and 10th in eight grade science. Perceived as a mixed bag for the U.S., these results also show a large gap between the U.S. and Israel and their peers in Asia and Europe.
Photo courtesy of Ronen Zvulun / Reuters