Under its last four ministers, Israel’s Ministry of Education has focused many of its efforts on increasing the number and share of high school students in technological-vocational education (as opposed to academic education).
But how do trends in technological education over the last decade break down by gender? In honor of International Women’s Day, which took place this month, let’s take a closer look at the gender differences in technological education across Israel’s education streams.
In general, technological education in Israel has indeed grown in the past decade; as of 2017, 40% of 12th grade students were enrolled in technological education, compared to just over 33% in 2006. The number of high schools offering technological tracks has increased substantially over this time period, as well.
A new achievement-based classification system proposed by Taub Center researchers sorts technological majors into high, medium, and low technological tracks based on the bagrut qualification rates of the students in these tracks and the level of math and English studied.
This new classification shows that the share of technological students studying in majors with high achievement levels – those in the high technological tracks – has risen by 40% over the past decade.
Overall, the share of boys enrolled in technological education is higher than the share of girls in all of the education streams except for the Haredi stream.
However, when broken down into high technological, medium technological, and low technological tracks, there has been a substantial rise in the number of girls in the Arab education system choosing to study in high technological tracks.
In fact, unlike the Hebrew sector where the share of girls in the high technological track is considerably smaller than the share of boys, girls in Arab education make up a majority of students in the high technological track.
The most noteworthy change has taken place in Druze and Bedouin education. In Bedouin education, for example, the gap between the share of girls and boys studying in high technological tracks is largest: 21% compared to 12%, respectively. The great increase in the share of girls in all streams of Arab education in the high track is accompanied by a large increase in the bagrut qualification rate for this group and in the number of Arab Israeli women pursuing academic studies.
In contrast to the changes in the Arab sector, girls in the Hebrew education sector are still a minority in all scientific tracks in general, and, particularly, in high technological education.
The percentage of girls studying in high technological tracks is particularly low in the State-religious education system, even though the boys in the same system study these subjects at a higher rate than boys in any other education stream. While one out of four boys in the State-religious education system is enrolled in high technological education, the same is true for fewer than one out of every ten girls.
It appears that single-sex schools in the State-religious system result in fewer study options for religious girls. Indeed, only 18% of the religious girls’ schools offer high technological tracks, compared to 48% of all other schools (except Haredi schools).
Not offering high technological tracks could prevent interested religious girls from pursuing these majors. One possibility for increasing the options open to these girls is combining technological classes between a number of religious 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 new career opportunities are opening up for Haredi women, in addition to the classic teaching track.
The large differences across education streams require varied, tailored approaches for encouraging girls who are interested to study technological subjects in high school at a high level. In the Arab sector, where the share of girls in the high technological track is already high, it is important to address the transition from high school to academia, where many Arab Israeli women pursue a degree in education despite having studied scientific majors in high school.
In the Haredi stream, the sharp increase in the share of girls enrolled in the medium technological track – which opens up more employment opportunities – is encouraging, but there is still much room to increase the share enrolled in the high technological track, which has hardly changed in the past decade.
In the State-religious stream, it is crucial to ensure that high technological tracks are offered in girls’ high schools, so that religious girls have the opportunity to study them.
It is, of course, important that each student choose a study major in high school that interests him or her. However, it is also worth noting that skills learned in high technological tracks are in-demand in the labor market and are associated with labor market opportunities and higher earning potential.
Encouraging interested girls to study these subjects could help to close gender gaps that emerge later on, in academia and the labor market.