Study: Too Many Israeli Students Get ‘Easy Ride’ on Tests

Students in Kiryat Sharet high school in Holon take their matriculation exams in mathematics. Photo by Yossi Zeliger/Flash90
Students in Kiryat Sharet high school in Cholon take their matriculation exams in mathematics. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Figures released on Sunday show a dramatic rise in the number of students in Israeli schools who are considered challenged enough to require extra time on state tests, such as the bagrut (matriculation) tests. While in the Western world the average number of students who are granted extra assistance in completing tests – usually extra time to finish – is about 5%, in Israel in 2014, some 41% of students were given extra time.

Officials said that students were clearly taking advantage of a system that was meant to help a specific population, and they intend to put a stop to it.

The phenomenon has been growing over the past decade and a half. In 2001, the number of eligible students was about 14%.

Students are eligible for the time “bonus” either if they bring in a recommendation from a medical practitioner, or if they sign a declaration that they need more time because of learning, emotional, or other deficiencies. The self-declaration component was originally meant for students who were embarrassed to bring in a doctor’s note.

Because of the obvious abuse of the system, the Ministry said, the onus will be on students to prove need, and teachers will have the final say on who is eligible for extra time. Students who believe they are eligible will be able to appeal the teacher’s decision – but only after the test. The Ministry aims to reduce the number of eligible students to no more than 10% of test-takers in the coming academic year.