Monday, July 7, 2014

High School Matriculation: The Key Is to Understand the Whole

Yoad Shahar 

Each year the Ministry of Education publishes statistics about the rates of eligibility, by locale, for high school matriculation certificates among 12th grade students. According to this data the rate of eligibility in Jerusalem declined from 51% in 2007-2008 to 46% in 2009-2010 to 43% in 2011-2012. Yet some observers claim that these figures do not accurately represent current trends, which are influenced by policies regarding matriculation.

The Municipality of Jerusalem publishes annual statistics based on those of the Ministry of Education, after arranging them by population sectors. These data reveal that the percentage of students eligible for matriculation certificates from among 12th grade high school students enrolled in the state and state-religious education systems has in fact been rising in recent years: from 63% in 2009-2010 to 68% in 2010-2011 to 72% in 2011-2012.

Simultaneously there is a trend underway in which schools are transitioning from the independent (ultra-orthodox) and Arab education systems to the educational curriculum that prepares students for the Israeli matriculation certificate. In other words, more students are taking the matriculation exams within these sectors, and therefore presumably more students are eligible for the certificate. Here lies the key to understanding the gap between the data published by the Ministry of Education and the data published by the Municipality of Jerusalem.

As noted, eligibility for the matriculation certificate is calculated on the basis of the total number of students enrolled in 12th grade. However, the 12th graders who are counted are only those enrolled in schools that offer students the option of taking the matriculation exams. Thus two different problems arise regarding calculation of the whole. First, if we were to calculate the number of students eligible for a matriculation certificate in 2011-2012 out of the total number of 12th grade students (including those enrolled in schools whose students do not have the option of taking matriculation exams), the whole figure out of which the proportion of eligible students is calculated would be greater, and therefore the eligibility rate would be less than 43%. Second, under the current system of calculating the whole, as more ultra-orthodox and Arab schools transition to the Israeli matriculation curriculum, all of their students are counted in the calculation of the total number of students – the whole – even though during the early years only a few of their students actually take the matriculation exams. In other words, as more schools transition to the matriculation curriculum, they bring down the overall eligibility rate within the city. 

So what is the correct way to calculate eligibility for a matriculation certificate? The question depends on the objective of the calculation. One objective could be the assessment of eligibility as an indicator of students’ future earning power. Towards this objective it would be appropriate to include all the city’s 12th grade students in calculating the whole, and consequently the eligibility percentage for 2011-2012 is less than 43%.

Another objective could be to develop an indicator of the quality of the city’s educational institutions. A high eligibility rate indicates a successful educational system, which often serves as a criterion for parents who are considering moving to the city. Towards this objective it is appropriate to calculate the eligibility percentage on the basis of the number of students enrolled in schools that have adopted the matriculation certificate as a measure of the quality of their education. However, this approach does not address the catch created by the transition of ultra-orthodox and Arab schools to the matriculation curriculum: at least in the short term, these schools bring down the city’s eligibility rates. Accordingly, the Municipality of Jerusalem is right to calculate the matriculation certificate eligibility rates by education sectors, thus producing a more complex representation of existing trends in the city with regard to this issue.


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