Photo Credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90
Ethiopian students siting at a computers in the computer room at the Branco Weiss School.

During a Knesset committee meeting on the Advancement of Equal Rights for Ethiopian Descendants Day, it was revealed that some local authorities in Israel still run programs that segregate students of Ethiopian descent.

The Education, Culture, and Sports Committee on Tuesday debated educational programs catering exclusively to Israeli students of Ethiopian descent, as well as ways to close the educational gap between these students and the rest of the students in Israel.

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Education Ministry representative Irit Biran announced that the ministry bans programs which segregate students of Ethiopian descent and called on parents to lodge complaints if they encounter any discrimination when enrolling their children in local schools.

According to the Education Ministry, the annual Meitzav (school growth and efficiency indicators) exams for fifth graders indicates that the language gap between students of Ethiopian origin and all other Hebrew-speaking students has narrowed, as has the gap in math proficiency.

However, in the eligibility for a quality matriculation certificate, there remains a 20% gap favoring students who are not of Ethiopian descent. The exams taken by fifth graders also showed that the gap in English proficiency has not changed over the past nine years.

Ziva Mekonen-Degu, executive director of the Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews, noted that last year only 38 students of Ethiopian origin studied math at a 5-unit level (out of a maximum 5). Biran said in response that this year the number has increased to about 100.

Education Committee Chairman MK Yakov Margi (Shas) called on the Education Ministry to cancel all segregating programs and make certain that Israeli students of Ethiopian descent are not discriminated against during enrollment. He also demanded that the Education Ministry submit a plan detailing how it intends to deal with the gaps in the Meitzav scores and the eligibility for a quality matriculation certificate.

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