The Ethiopian National Project: An Evaluation Study of the SPACE Program – Scholastic Assistance, Youth Centers 2005/6–2006/7: Executive Summary

The goal of the Ethiopian National Project is to enable Ethiopian-Israeli youth to realize their full potential and enhance their chances of social mobility and future integration into the labor market. Following a mapping of needs conducted by the National Project, the SPACE (School Performance and Community Empowerment) program was established in 2004, in order to provide a solution for the needs of the Ethiopian-Israeli community. The Ethiopian National Project is a partnership between the United Jewish Communities – Federations of North America (UJC), the Government of Israel, representatives of Ethiopian Jewish Community Organizations, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Israel, and Keren Hayesod. The study evaluated two of the main programs in the SPACE program.

The Scholastic Assistance Program: Some 6,500 students at 120 schools in 23 localities participated in the program during the 2006/7 school year. On average, 75% of all Ethiopian-Israelis at the schools involved participated in the program. The scholastic assistance provides about four hours a week of after-school instruction in basic subjects to the participants, in small groups. Personal support is given to the youth and there are activities to meet their social and emotional needs. Data were collected through interviews with program implementers and principals of the schools in which the program is implemented. The school principals are extremely satisfied with the program. They consider its main impact has been to improve self-confidence, enhance scholastic achievement and increase motivation to learn.

The program’s impact on the Ethiopian-Israeli students’ achievements in their matriculation exams was also examined. The analysis of their achievements was based on a comparison between the exam results of Ethiopian-Israeli students who completed twelfth grade at schools where the program was implemented in 2005/2006 and those of Ethiopian-Israelis who completed twelfth grade at similar schools where the program was not implemented. The number of students in the program who completed 12th grade that year was less than in later years, however, the findings demonstrate that the program had a considerable impact on their achievements in their matriculation exams.

The Youth Centers provide Ethiopian-Israelis aged 12–18 with after-school activities, enrichment, and personal development workshops. They are intended for all Ethiopian Israelis of that age group, with special emphasis on those at risk. Those who use the centers tend to come several times a week and spend several hours there each time. These are the first youth centers that many (60%) have visited. The youth have a positive perception of the centers and report that their participation has contributed to many aspects of their lives. The most frequently mentioned contributions are that the centers provide them with somewhere to go in their leisure time, offer interesting activities, and enhance their self-confidence.

These and other findings have been presented to the implementers and funders of the program and form the basis for its improvement and further dissemination.