Daily Israel Report

Op-Ed: Kudos on Israeli Students' Math Scores

Our high school students actually did much better on the international math tests than expected.
Published: Sunday, December 16, 2012 12:20 AM


I have been writing about the fragile nature of science and math education in Israel for several months.

STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education scores were falling or teetering on the edge prompting university professors to speak out about the need to prop up the system.

However, our high school students did very well in international STEM Olympiad competitions around the world this summer, but more is expected from most of them.

And, apparently, things really are improving. In the past four years, international high school student math achievement test scores climbed. Israel is now firmly in seventh place worldwide. Their science test scores moved Israel’s high school student ranking into 13th place among the 42 countries according The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study.

Our fourth grade student reading scores moved Israeli youngsters into eighteenth place from thirty-first place since 2006.

Minister of Education Gideon Sa’ar and his staff deserve praise for providing the money and leadership resulting in these impressive gains.

Since 2009, Sa’ar annually leads the fight to increase the budget for these subjects securing an increase from NIS 38 million to NIS 450million. Now the results are coming in. In other advanced countries, education budgets are sinking, proving more is never achieved by spending less.

Teachers in the classrooms, principals, parents and students deserve special recognition for these achievements. Their hard work put the money to good use.

Hopefully, the next government of Israel will understand what this means. To build on the new momentum, the government must

1.  Keep Sa’ar in his current position. Nothing ensures successful turnarounds over the long term like continuity of the top people.

2. Continue expanding STEM budgets, teacher pay, and improving curricula to reach children in all grades in public and private schools. A vibrant and healthy STEM education program will positively affect the nation’s economy into the future, and these are the subjects that can appeal to religious educators and minority community leaders looking to ease the access of their children into the workforce.

3. Consider appointing a special community advisory board to advocate for even greater commitments from the government and private sector, and advise these folks on how they might best invest their resources. Higher education programs generously supplement the Ministry’s initiatives, while private companies and NGO’s donate money and the expertise of their employees for special school programs.

Lets keep up the momentum, and show the world and us that Israel is number one in the world in its commitments to quality and universal education.