Israeli students ranked in the bottom third of the countries surveyed by PISA 2012 in mathematical literacy, while the gap between the highest and lowest scores was the second largest in the OECD. This paper explores which variables led to disparities in mathematical literacy between different socioeconomic levels and between Israeli Arabs and Jews as well as in comparison with Australian students. Different instructional approaches that are known in the literature to have a positive impact on students’ achievement are not observed in the relationship between teachers and students in Israel. In Israel, schools contribute to the perpetuation of socioeconomically driven educational inequality by using tracks that are characterised by different teaching pedagogies and different content, with little or no upward mobility between tracks, leading to structural exclusion. By comparison, in Australia, ability tracking is less rigid and mathematical literacy far higher than in Israel. The policy implication is that either teachers must work differently in a track-based system to overcome the process of exclusion dictated by the structure itself or the system must reduce the use of tracking.
- ability grouping
- mathematical literacy
- PISA study
- social exclusion in education