PHOTO: Israel introduces plan to encourage academic excellence and leadership among students of Ethiopian descent. Photo by Shlomi Amsalem
Israel’s Council for Higher Education recently approved a $40.4 million (145 million NIS) multiyear plan to encourage academic excellence and leadership among students of Ethiopian descent. The program sprang from Israel’s 2015 Government Policy for Advancing the Integration of Israel Citizens of Ethiopian Descent into Israeli Society.
The Steering Committee for Making Higher Education Accessible to Students of Ethiopian Descent, mapped out the primary obstacles to integration into the higher education system. These obstacles include the lack of pre-academic information, advisement and guidance; a low percentage of holders of matriculation certificates that meet the threshold set by the universities; high dropout rates between first and second year; and the lack of variety of areas of study.
Coupled with previous decisions, the new CHE plan forms a holistic program of broad support starting at the pre-academic stage and continuing on to bachelor’s degree studies, advanced degree studies and even the hiring of senior academic staff.
The goal is to increase the number of students of Ethiopian descent enrolled in undergraduate programs from 1.45% to approximately 1.7% by 2022. This number is commensurate with the percentage of people of Ethiopian descent in the general Israeli population. When achieved, this will represent an increase of approximately 40% in the number of bachelor’s degree students, from 2,500 to approximately 3,500 within five years.
PBC Chair Professor Yaffa Zilbershats added, “The Planning and Budgeting Committee has defined making the higher education system accessible to unique populations a central goal in its work plan, with an emphasis on persons of Ethiopian descent, the ultra-Orthodox, and Arabs. It is our obligation to increase excellence in academia and research, but at the same time, we must open the doors to a higher education to all social groups and sectors and promote true equality, permitting every student in Israel to realize his or her talents, irrespective of his or her ethnicity or where they live.”
Elements that make up the plan include:
- Pre-academic Guidance and Identification – Funding prep courses for psychometric exams and activities whose purpose it is to identify and guide young people toward higher education and to assist in picking a major. This is done through the PBC’s Hesegim (Achievements) program in towns in the socioeconomic periphery.
- Support for Students Enrolled in the Pre-academic Programs – This broad support structure includes, among other things, academic reinforcement, tutoring, psychometric exam preparation, funding for dorms or transportation, diagnosis of learning disabilities, and more.
- Support for Bachelor’s Degree Students – This broad support structure includes, among other things, academic reinforcement, learning strategies, tutoring, funding for dorms, transportation, diagnosis of learning disabilities, etc.
- Leadership Programs – Intended for students beginning bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, starting in the 2019/20 academic year.
- Program for Outstanding University Students at all Degree Levels – Assigning a mentor from among the senior university staff who will accompany the outstanding students from the final year of their bachelor’s degree and will guide them on their academic path in preparation for continuing research studies.
- Scholarships for Academic Excellence for Research-Based Master’s Degrees – Scholarships for academic excellence that are intended for the basic needs of recipients in their second year of a master’s degree program.
- Program for Hiring Academic Staff at Academic Institutions – Research and wage budgets for hiring outstanding scientists at institutions of higher education. At the end of the scholarship, the scholarship recipients will be hired by academic institutions on a permanent basis.
The Council for Higher Education will continue its efforts to make education accessible to all segments of the Israeli population.