Under the last four education ministers, the Ministry of Education has focused much of its efforts on increasing the number and share of high school students in technological-vocational education. A second, related goal has been to increase the number and share of students taking the bagrut exams in math and English at the highest study level (five units). This study examines the profile of students in high school technological-vocational education according to a new achievement-based classification system of educational tracks proposed by the authors.
The growth of technological education in Israel
As of 2017, 40% of 12th grade students were enrolled in technological education (compared to just over 33% in 2006). Within that, 15% of the students study majors in the high technological track, 23% in the medium track, and less than 3% in the low track.
- Between 2006 and 2017, the share of students studying in the high technological track (where achievements are the highest) rose by 40%. This increase has come mainly from outstanding students transferring from the academic track to the high technological track. This is indicated by a decline in the share of high school students studying in the academic track from 67% to 60% during the same period.
- While the total number of students in the 12th grade increased between 2006 and 2017 by almost 18%, the number of students in academic track education increased by only about 4,000 students (a 6% increase), and the number of students in technological education increased by about 14,000 students (42% rise). The biggest increase was in the number of students in high technological education — about 7,000 students, or a 65% increase.
- The number of schools offering only an academic track increased by only 17 during this period, whereas the number of schools offering technological tracks rose by 291.
Technological education by sector and gender
The share of students in technological education increased in all of the education streams (Hebrew and Arab), but there are large differences between sectors and genders.
- The greatest increase in the share of students studying in high technological tracks was in the Arab education system, especially among Druze (20 percentage points) and Bedouins (11 percentage points).
- In 2017, the share of students in the high technological track in the entire Arab sector was higher than its share in the Hebrew education sector.
- The percentage of girls studying in the high technological track in Arab education has risen substantially, and is even higher than the percentage of boys. The gap between girls and boys in Bedouin education is the largest (21% compared to 12%, respectively).
- Only a small percentage of Jewish girls study in the high technological track, and the percentage is particularly low in the State-religious education system, whereas the percentage of boys in the high track is relatively high in State-religious education. It is possible that single-sex schools result in fewer study options for religious girls, because the number of high technological tracks offered in girls’ schools in the State-religious education stream is particularly low (only 18% of the schools offer these tracks, compared to 48% of all other schools (except Haredi schools)).
- In Haredi education, the share of girls in the medium technological track rose from 9% to 46% between 2006 and 2017, with many of these students studying bookkeeping and human resources majors. Whereas in the past the vast majority of Haredi women went into the teaching profession, the large increase in the share of Haredi girls enrolled in these majors seems to indicate that they are now pursuing other areas of study.
Technological education: socioeconomic and academic background
As expected, students’ socioeconomic background is highly correlated with the level of academic achievement in each of the technological tracks: the students in the high technological track come from the strongest backgrounds, followed by the students in the medium and low tracks. In Hebrew education, those in the academic and high technological tracks have similar backgrounds, while, in the Arab sector, those in the high track come from slightly stronger backgrounds.
- In Hebrew education, parents’ average years of schooling for students in the high technological and academic tracks is about 13.7 years, while in the Arab sector, it is 11.8 years in the high track and 10.5 years in the academic track.
- Though the socioeconomic profile of Arab Israeli students in the high technological track is much lower than that of Jews, their bagrut qualification rates are similar to their Jewish counterparts: around 90%. Even among Bedouin students – whose socioeconomic status is particularly low – the bagrut qualification rate is about 74%.
- The 8th grade mathematics skills of students in high technological education (according to Meitzav scores) is higher than those of students in academic education and medium and low technological education: the average percentile of students in the high technological track is 16 points higher in the Jewish population and 20 points higher in the Arab population than that of students in academic education.
After years of decline in the number of students studying math and English at the five unit level (the highest level), these rates are now increasing.
- While the number of students in the 12th grade grew by 18% from 2006 to 2017, the bagrut qualification rate rose by 42%.
- The number of students taking math at the five unit level declined between 2006 and 2012, but has risen by 56% since 2012. In the Arab sector, in 2006, the share of students studying math at the five unit level was lower than in the Hebrew sector — 11% compared to 15.5%. Until 2012, the decrease was larger in the Arab sector, and the recovery since has been slower.
- The number of those taking the English bagrut exam at the five unit level increased by 20% between 2013 and 2017 (over and above the increase in the overall number of students). However, the share of those learning English at such a high level is relatively low in the Arab Israeli sector and stood at only 17% in 2017, compared to 51% among Jews.
- In 2017, of all students taking five units in math, 47% were students in technological education, most of them in the high technological track.
- The share of students taking five units in math who do not study in the high technological track or in a scientific academic track is very low, and declining: only 6% of students who took math at this level in 2017 are enrolled in non-science academic majors.