The HILA Program – Complementary Education for School-excluded Youth: An Evaluation Study

The study was conducted jointly by the Youth and Society Administration of the Ministry of Education, and the Center for Children and Youth of the JDC-Brookdale Institute.

HILA is part of the system of educational-social services for disengaged youth and youth at risk that have been implemented in municipalities across the country by the Youth at Risk Advancement Section of the Ministry of Education’s Youth and Society Administration. Having begun its activities in the 1980s, HILA is currently implemented as part of the Youth at Risk Advancement units in 120 municipalities in the Jewish and Arab populations. The program is meant to complement the education of youth aged 14-18 who have dropped out of school, regardless of their employment status. More than 4,000 youth participate in the program, which aspires to reintegrate them into formal education frameworks or supplement their formal education; enable them to develop personally, scholastically and vocationally; and impart educational and social values, so that they can become full members of the community.

In 1997-1998, a study was conducted of the characteristics of the youth in the care of the Youth at Risk Advancement Section. Among other findings, the study determined the need for a comprehensive evaluation of the HILA program. During the evaluation, responsibility for implementing the program was transferred from the ORT Network to the Association of Community Centers. The findings of the evaluation therefore reflect the transition between these two implementing agencies.

The goal of the study was to examine the organization and outcomes of the program, and the characteristics of the students. The following are selected findings:

  • The students came from families suffering from serious social and economic distress.
  • The students’ academic background was weak. More than half entered the HILA program after completing only the eighth or ninth grade. One-quarter had been out of a study framework for one year, and 10% for two or more years.
  • Most of the program’s principles, such as its holistic philosophy regarding the needs of the student, its flexibility, its belief in the student’s ability, its special learning atmosphere, etc., were successfully implemented.
  • The average number of weekly learning hours at HILA was about four per student.
  • There was unanimity among the interviewees regarding the high quality and motivation of the staff, and the initiative and high level of professionalism and dedication of the teachers.
  • Most of the students were satisfied with the program. The teachers reported that most of the students demonstrated satisfactory learning behavior and adapted well to the program.
  • On the one hand, about one-quarter of the HILA students received a passing grade on at least three exams, and 10% received a passing grade on at least one matriculation exam. On the other hand, most of the students left or completed the program without a certificate and failed to pass even one exam.

The findings of the study were presented to, and discussed in depth with, policymakers and field personnel associated with HILA. Since the study, efforts have been made to improve the program. For example, the students’ performance is being monitored in a more structured and methodical way. In addition, changes have been made in the various tracks of study to enable the students to receive a certificate in the framework of the program