In 1997, as a result of growing concerns, an inter-ministerial committee was established in Israel to plan policies and programs to support the successful integration of immigrants from the Caucasus into Israeli society. The committee initiated a series of studies, undertaken by Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute including national surveys of youth from the Caucasus and their families. These studies provided a basis for developing a range of policies and programs to support the integration of these youth and their families.
In 2002 The Ministries of Education and Absorption, JDC and additional partners in the inter-ministerial committee initiated an additional study to follow-up the situation of youth from the Caucasus. The findings of this study reveal that there has been significant progress in the situation of Kavkazi youth.
There has been a significant decline in the dropout rates: While in 1997 25% of the youth from the Caucasus ages 14-17 did not study in Ministry of Education schools and 10% were not studying at all, in 2002 14% are not studying in Ministry of Education schools and 6% are not studying at all.
The percentage of youth in tracks leading to matriculation has doubled from 26% in 1997 to 50% in 2002.
Youth report higher levels of satisfaction with the way school staff relate to them. 30% (compared to 18% in 1997) are very satisfied with the attitude of the school staff towards them; 86% (compared to 75% in 1997) feel teachers care about their achievements and 79% (compared to 61% in 1997) feel teachers care about their social adjustment.
The extent to which youth feel alienated socially has significantly declined: much lower percentages of youth reported that non-immigrant Israelis treat them badly or ignore them.
The findings point to the impact of the change in policies on the extent of service received. For example, the percentage of youth receiving help in school has risen from 55% in 1997 to 74% in 2002. In 2002 32% of the youth also received support in after school programs. In total, 80% of the youth received support either within or outside school.
At the same time, the existing efforts have not by any means closed the gap with non-immigrant youth. Dropout rates remain much higher than among the general Jewish population and the percentage expected to complete matriculation much lower. The acquisition of Hebrew also continues to be particular difficulty among this group. A substantial proportion (15-20%) have difficulties understanding and participating in class because of language problems. A larger proportion of students (some 30%) have difficulties doing homework and taking exams in Hebrew.
The report serves to emphasize the importance of the intensive support provided to these youth, and points to the need to continue this support so as to continue to decrease dropout rates and improve achievements. The report also underscores the need to improve the support provided in acquiring Hebrew.
The findings are being intensively utilized by JDC-Israel and the inter-ministerial committee as a basis for improving and updating policies.