The debate in Israel over the role of educational tracking and particularly technological/vocational education is related to socioeconomic and ethnic gaps as well as to educational and employment achievement. Despite the public discourse, discussions rely on research from the past that is not necessarily relevant to today’s system. This chapter intends to fill in some of those gaps and has as its base three empirical questions. (1) What are the factors that affect a pupil’s assignment to the various educational tracks in secondary school? (2) To what extent do pupils change educational tracks? (3) Does the educational track affect a pupil’s likelihood of finishing secondary school and qualifying for a bagrut (matriculation certificate)? The findings show that despite changes in technological/vocational education, socioeconomic factors still relate to tracking assignments, even when the effects of previous pupil achievement are controlled. Mobility between tracks is quite low and the educational track affects chances of completing secondary school and attaining bagrut qualification. Changes over time were also identified. First, bagrut qualification rates have increased substantially in all tracks. Second, the main transfers between tracks today are from technological to academic tracks, which are considered more prestigious. Third, while in the past most Arab Israeli secondary school pupils were in the academic track, today more than half of them are learning in the technological tracks – with many pupils in the engineering track where the bagrut qualification rates are the highest.
This paper appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication, State of the Nation Report 2015, Dov Chernichovsky and Avi Weiss (editors).