Israel’s Ministry of Education has announced that it will suspend an annual examination, known as the Meitzav exams, in the upcoming year, in the light of a sharp disparity in academic performance between various sections of the population.
Although the 2012-2013 test results showed an overall academic improvement in schools, students from middle- and upper-class communities accounted for almost all of the higher scores.
Students from lower-income households showed a steep drop in achievement, and have been the subject of heated debate among lawmakers.
“Gaps in education are a threat to Israel, and the result of systematic policy,” said opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich.
The results exposed wide gaps between children from richer and poorer families at Hebrew-language, government-supervised schools — a 51-point difference in the maths section, 46 in Hebrew, 42 in English, and 41 in science and technology.
In Arabic-speaking schools, socioeconomic backgrounds were also the strongest indicator of academic success. Middle- and upper-class Arab students scored slightly higher in a number of subjects.
The standardised exam, which tests maths, sciences, Hebrew, English and Arabic, are meant to help teachers and administrators structure classes in the following school year.
The Ministry of Education announced that it would re-format the test and work to redirect funding towards under-performing schools.