The imperceptible selection

Sani Caleb, a lawyer and the head of the Clinic for Educational Rights at the Academic Center for Law and Business in Israel, writes in haoketz.org, a blog dealing with social issues, advocating for the use of lotteries to allocate seats in Israeli public charter schools:

The imperceptible selection

Despite the guidelines of the Ministry of Education and the judicial rulings, many schools continue to decide in effect who will win a place and who will be left outside

It was recently made public that the Ministry of Education instructed the public charter schools (the School for Nature and Environment and the School for the Arts, etc.) to avoid administering entrance exams to students entering first grade. […]

The prohibition of selection exams upon entrance to schools follows, inter alia, from the proven direct association between the social-economic status of a family and its cultural background and the educational achievements of its children. Therefore grouping students based on their educational achievements into “better” and “not as good” schools deepens the gaps and the inequalities. In order to bypass the prohibition, many schools employ inventive ways to select students, such as acquaintance interviews with the students and their parents, observations and diagnoses. The procedure is different, but in most cases the goal is unchanged – to allow the schools to decide, each school according to its own criteria, the identity of the students that are admitted.

For example, the Clinic for Educational Rights received complaints about prohibited selection procedures that were used in 2009 at the middle schools for girls of the national-religious education in Jerusalem. Responding to our inquiries, the Directorship of Education in Jerusalem (DEJ) announced that the middle schools do not administer selection exams, only interviews, whose only objective is to become acquainted with the students. However, at the same time DEJ made it known that some students will not be accepted to the schools to which they applied “because of unsuitability”.

The implication is clear: the middle schools do not administer official admittance exams, but the acquaintance interviews are used in fact to decide who will be admitted and who will not. Following the involvement of the Clinic, DEJ’s directions on this matter were changed, but many schools still use the acquaintance interviews as a tool for student selection.

[…]

The equalitarian way to resolve the problem of excess demand for schools is to hold a lottery among all the students who wish to enroll, and not to select them using various classification procedures.

[…]

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4 Responses

  1. Does this article appear anywhere on the blog in English? The links above take me to all-Hebrew pages.

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  2. No, I don’t think so. The translation here is mine.

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  3. The inexorable logic seems to lead here, as in England to the use of lotteries. To many this looks like an admission of failure. It is up to us to show that a lottery is a positive, democratic, egalitarian choice — Sortition in Action perhaps?

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  4. Conall,

    > To many this looks like an admission of failure.

    I would argue that the problem is not with such unconsidered objections – these can be relatively easily swayed by reason. The real problem is with the considered and hardened objections of the powerful minority who would have their preferred situation threatened by the democratic, egalitarian device of the lot.

    Why would parents who know that they have a much better than average chance of providing their offspring with a place at a preferred school be willing to settle for an equal chance? These interested parties can easily employ the usual talking points (“excellence”, “merit”, “hard work”, “differential in potential”, etc.) and at the same time have their interests safeguarded by their undue influence in society.

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