Affirmative action in education fails, study finds

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A Taub Center book advocates intensive intervention at a very young age.

Affirmative action by the Ministry of Education has had no significant effect so far, but it appears that the difference in resources, especially between the Jewish and Arab sectors, is narrowing, a group of educational researchers states in a new book published by the Taub Center For Social Policy Studies in Israel.

The book, "Educational Inequality in Israel: From Research to Policy," brings together existing knowledge on a range of issues pertaining to inequality in education, and discusses the consequences of policy and possible changes in it. The book's authors are Prof. Hanna Ayalon, Nachum Blass, Dr. Yariv Feniger, and Prof. Yossi Shavit.

The researchers state that to a great extent, parents' economic resources and educational backgrounds determine the achievements of their children in the education system. Since there is great inequality among families in Israel, this contributes to the obvious inequality in the younger generation's educational opportunities. The researchers note, however, that in addition to parents, the education system is also responsible for these gaps. For example, the distinction between strong and weak student exacerbates inequality in achievement between these groups. Similarly, privatization of the education system tends to further enhance the achievements of students from well-off families who can bear the cost of private education, while putting students from poor families in inferior schools, thereby contributing to wider gaps.

The researchers found that only 10% of the education budget is allocated to helping disadvantaged population groups. The fact that the poorer authorities invest less in educational infrastructure only aggravates the disadvantages afflicting the weaker students in these communities.

The Taub Center researchers propose a change in the method of allocation by using a differential basket of services for students, an important tool for promoting educational equality, starting at kindergarten age and continuing through high school. Such a basket will make it possible to focus all of the Ministry of Education's services, and to change the existing situation in which local authorities with different resources and needs pay equal shares of the cost of education. Differential budgeting will also enable the Ministry of Education to establish a separate system of compensation that will incentivize teachers to teach students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds. The differential basket of services will give priority to institutions that encourage social integration and students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

The book's authors believe that intervention at a very young age, when the child's mind is still very flexible, will be far more beneficial than intervention at a more advanced age, and is likely to reduce inequality in educational achievement between different social strata. The researchers propose a series of measures, including extending accessibility and raising the standard of care and the quality of education in daycare centers and nurseries by raising the rate of state participation in financing these institutions; reducing the staff-child ratio; and investing in high-quality training for carers of very young children. The researchers also propose increasing income supplements, raising child allowances but with differential payments, and increasing the work grant for low-income parents of very young children. Intervention at an early stage will generate a return both for the individual child and for society in general in many areas, the study concludes.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on December 4, 2019

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2019

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