The share of students in Arab Israeli education is declining, while the share in Jewish education is stabilizing: Over the past decade, the share of students in State-Jewish, State-religious, and Haredi education has stabilized, while that of Arab Israeli education has declined. The stabilization of the share of students in State-Jewish education can be explained by rising fertility rates among secular women, secularization processes driving pupil migration toward less-religious education streams, and an increase in the number of non-Jewish pupils in Israel’s State-Jewish educational frameworks. In the Arab Israeli sector there have been particularly large-scale changes, with the share of pupils in grades 1-4 out of all pupils in that age group dropping from 28% in 2010 to 22% in 2020. A rise in the share of pupils in Arab Israeli high schools can be attributed mainly to lower dropout rates.
Special allocation for Covid-19: In 2020 the Ministry of Education’s actual budget amounted to NIS 67 billion, NIS 64 billion of which was utilized. In order to contend with the Covid pandemic, a sum of NIS 4.2 billion was allocated in the 2020/2021 school year (NIS 1.75 billion in 2020 and NIS 2.45 billion in 2021), to improve infrastructures for remote and hybrid learning, for protective/hygienic measures, and for assistance to special populations. Of this 2020 allocation, the majority of the additional budget was spent on afterschool programs (NIS 870 million) and on equipment and the training of teachers for afterschool programs (NIS 280 million). Only NIS 400 million were spent on additional teaching staff to operate the class-size-reducing “capsule” system. All told in 2020, NIS 1.7 billion shekels of the 2020/2021 budgetary addition was spent. It is surprising to find that a relatively small amount of the allocation was actually used to split classes.
Reducing class sizes, increasing the number of teachers: Over the past twenty years, the Ofek Hadash and Oz LeTmura labor agreements were signed with Israel’s teacher organizations, implementation of the Compulsory Education Law was extended to age three, and special education frameworks grew in number. All of these things affected the number of teachers, pupils, and classes, though there was notably a more rapid rise in the number of teachers than in the number of pupils and classes.
Class sizes in the State and State-religious education streams decreased, as they did to an even greater extent in the Arab Israeli education stream – a development that reflects a narrowing of gaps due to policy and changing trends in Arab Israeli family size. By contrast, class sizes increased in the Haredi education stream – apparently reflecting the Haredi population’s numerical growth.
Regarding teachers, while the share of female Jewish teachers among all Jewish teachers has not changed over the past two decades, the share of female teachers in the Arab Israeli sector grew from 60% to 70%. The teachers’ education level rose, especially in the Arab Israeli sector: from 47% without a degree in 2000 to just 3% in 2020 (less than the percentage in the Jewish sector). The share of Arab Israeli teachers with master’s degrees is similar to that of their Jewish counterparts – 38%. There was also an increase in work hours, apparently due to job structure changes following agreements with the teacher organizations, e.g., additional one-on-one hours and hours not formerly included in the work hour calculation (though they were in fact hours in which teachers had worked). There was, however, no change in the scope of employment for individual teachers (i.e., percent of full-time equivalent) and most teachers work part-time. In terms of qualification for the field, the percentage of teachers with the training required for math, English, and Hebrew instruction has not been on the rise and at times has decreased; the lack of qualification is evident primarily in the Jewish education stream.
In order to examine Israel’s teacher shortage, several parameters need to be examined, such as whether there has been a rise in the average job position (how many hours teachers work on average), an increase in the number of unlicensed teachers and decline in the level of education required, a rise in the number of students per class, a fall in the number of teacher hours per student, a decrease in the number of learning hours per subject, and the disappearance of certain study majors. Since 2010 there has been a decline in the share of non-certified teachers, from 16% to 6%, while the number of teachers with master’s degrees has risen from 24% to 38% – indicating that the level of instruction has improved. The average number of pupils per class is dropping, and the number of work hours per class is rising – a situation that does not point to a teacher shortage. In terms of teacher training institution graduates’ entry into the field, only 60% went on to work in teaching during the period 2000-2017, meaning that there is a potential pool of 40% who could be recruited for work in the system during crisis periods. Additionally, the share of new teachers exceeds that of retiring teachers; here as well there is no indication of a shortage.
Nevertheless, there are always point-specific teacher shortages in certain subject areas, and Taub Center Researcher Nachum Blass proposes several means of addressing the problem: generous overtime compensation, paying retired teachers to reenter the system with no sacrifice in terms of their pensions, and maintaining a “teacher roster” to facilitate contact with teacher certification holders as needed.