Data released by the Organization for Co-operation and Development (OECD) last week revealed that following the recently concluded school year, Israel remains among the most educated nations on earth, though its ranking is dropping.
At present, Israel is the fourth most educated nation, coming in behind Russia, Canada and Japan, and just ahead of the United States.
The ranking is determined based on the percentage of the population engaged in tertiary education, either at universities, colleges, technical institutions or the like. Over 46 percent of Israelis possess or are in the process of obtaining post-secondary degrees.
Three years ago, Israel ranked number two in the OECD survey, and last year the Jewish state tied with Japan for second place.
There are several reasons for Israel’s minor decline.
The OECD study noted that Israel’s population is growing far faster than other nations toward the top of the rankings. From 2000 to 2009, for example, Israel’s population increased by a whopping 19 percent.
Teacher salaries in Israel are abysmally low compared to other top-ranked nations. The OECD average income for secondary teachers is USD $32,000, while in Israel teachers at the same level earn only USD $19,000.
Another reason that is closely related to the teacher salary issue is government spending on education. Israel currently invests only USD $11,553 per student on tertiary education, while the OECD average is USD $13,957 per student. The United States spends the most, at USD $26,021 per student.
Considering the above, Israel is something of an anomaly when it comes to education. It’s population, especially among the poorer demographics, is skyrocketing, and it spends very little on educating those people. And yet, Israelis are among the most schooled people in the world.
Citing the disproportionate number of Jewish Nobel prize winners, Professor Robert Aumann, himself a Nobel laureate in economics, attributed the high level of Jewish and Israeli education to a long history of studying the Bible.
“Torah study is an intellectual pursuit, and honoring this ultimate value transfers to other pursuits as well,” Aumann told Israel’s Army Radio late last year. “Throughout the generations we have given great honor to this intellectual pursuit…Torah study makes the nation and its people of the finest and highest quality.”