Pupils in Sderot with Weizmann staff member Mazal Eltahan (left) and teacher Gila Shitrit (right)
The number of students from six Negev high schools who passed their final (matriculation) examination in mathematics nearly tripled between 1990 and 1993, thanks, in part, to a special educational program initiated by the Jewish Agency and designed by the Institute's Science Teaching Department. The program has also led to a significant rise in the number of students who passed the matriculation exam in chemistry and physics.
Directed by Dr. David Ben-Chaim of the Department's Mathematics Group, the project is being implemented in the northern Negev communities of Ofakim, Netivot-Azata and Sderot, all of which suffer from severe economic and social problems. It has the financial support of the Jewish Agency's Renewal and Settlement Department, the local municipalities and the Ministry of Education.
In 1990, just before the project started, only 84 out of 337 students graduating from the schools took the mathematics matriculation exam, and just 45 passed.
The Science Teaching Department became actively involved during the 1990-1991 school year, following which 129 graduates took the math exam and 93 passed. In the summer of 1993, the number of "passers" rose to 132 -- a nearly threefold increase in just three years.
Impressive gains have been recorded in physics and chemistry as well. Whereas in 1990, 17 students passed the elementary-level physics exam and none the intermediate or high-level exam, three years later 37 got passing marks, all on the higher-level tests. With regard to chemistry, the situation at the Negev Schools prior to the inauguration of the project had been even more dismal: 11th- and 12th-grade classes in this subject simply did not exist. Such classes were subsequently set up, and 10 students passed the matriculation exam in chemistry last summer; over 40 students are currently studying for it.
Besides sending staff members to schools on a weekly basis, the Department also updates textbooks, curricula and laboratory equipment.
Two additional Negev schools -- one from the town of Yeruham and the other from the Merhavim Region -- have joined the project this year, and the eight schools currently participating are expected to continue their involvement in the year to come.