The Integration of Immigrants from the Former Soviet Union in Post-High School and Academic Institutions

This study is the third in a series on the integration of immigrants from the former Soviet Union into post-high school and academic institutions, which was initiated by the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption and the Student Authority of that Ministry and the Jewish Agency for Israel, and conducted by the JDC-Brookdale Institute. The first study concerned students in pre-academic preparatory courses in 1998; it revealed that while many of them were successfully coping with scholastic and absorption challenges, others of them were still encountering significant difficulties. The second study concerned immigrants in their first year of post-high school and academic study. The current study (conducted in 2000) was a follow-up of preparatory course students roughly two years after they had entered the preparatory course (in effect, they were expected to be continuing their studies). It entailed an examination of the following questions: (a) Did the students complete the preparatory course successfully, and had they continued their studies? (b) To what extent was the assistance they received appropriate, and did it respond to the challenges the students faced? (c) How had the students’ socio-economic situation and attitudes toward absorption changed? As part of this study, 402 preparatory course graduates were interviewed.

The findings of the study indicate the following:

  • Eighty-eight percent of the graduates had successfully completed the preparatory course and met all of its requirements. Their success was reflected in their final grade, which averaged 83; 73% of them had received a grade of 80 or higher. Seven percent of them had finished the preparatory course but not met all of its requirements, and an additional 5% of them had not finished the course.
  • About 80% of the graduates reported that the course had helped them improve their Hebrew, 72% that it had contributed to their social integration, 66% that it had familiarized them with the system of higher education in Israel, and 64% that it had contributed to their overall scholastic success.
  • At the time of the study, 71% of the graduates were attending an institution of higher education, most in an academic track. Ninety-four percent of them intended to continue studying during the coming academic year, most in their current field of study. Those who did not plan to do so immediately, intended to do so later.
  • Eighty-nine percent of those who were not attending a post-high school institution at the time of the study reported intending to do so in the near future.
  • The proportion of graduates with at least one parent living in Israel had increased significantly, from 56% while they were attending the preparatory course, to 73% at present. This indicates that parents are continuing to immigrate in the wake of their children. About half of the graduates whose parents had not yet immigrated to Israel reported that they would recommend that their parents immigrate. Thus, this trend may broaden.
  • Most (81%) of the respondents were satisfied with their personal absorption into Israel.
  • The graduates’ financial situation had improved, relative to what it had been during the preparatory course. Nevertheless, 79% of them noted that financial difficulties were still their greatest problem.
  • The graduates’ social integration has been significant: 93% felt that non-immigrant Israelis had a positive attitude toward them, and 45% of them had at least one non-immigrant Israeli friend. However, about two-thirds of them expressed interest in expanding their social relationships.
  • About two-thirds of the graduates had participated in a social-community services program (“Shachak”); the majority of them reported that it had contributed to them in many areas.

The findings of the study thus paint a generally positive picture of the integration of preparatory course graduates. Nevertheless, as these immigrants face a continuous, multifaceted challenge, it is not surprising that not all of them cope with it as well as they might, and need further assistance and reinforcement. The findings suggest directions for the development of policy regarding their absorption:

  • Expand the network of information and social and psychological support, and identify and strengthen graduates at psychological risk.
  • Expand the support, consultation and guidance provided at transitional junctures, such as that from the preparatory course to continued education or employment.
  • Alleviate graduates’ financial difficulties, and prevent them from leaving school because of financial hardship.
  • Expand information and consultation on integration into employment, both for those who continue studying and for whom employment is secondary, and for those who are not studying. Provide information on additional employment and educational topics.
  • Expand opportunities for the graduates to meet non-immigrant Israelis socially, and reinforce the social ties between immigrants and non-immigrants.
  • Expand academic information and assistance, and identify and reinforce students at scholastic risk.
  • Re-examine the curriculum of the preparatory course, and adapt it to the graduates’ needs.

The findings of the three studies conducted to date have been presented at conferences and meetings attended by representatives of the Student Authority, the Ministry of Absorption and the Jewish Agency, preparatory course directors, and others who work with immigrant students. The findings sparked a comprehensive discussion of policy changes and the development of intervention programs to improve the graduates’ integration. Discussion have already begun regarding the development of ways to address the students’ financial difficulties; the expansion of support consultation, and guidance during the transition from the preparatory course to continued study or employment; and the improvement of academic assistance and social integration.

The study was conducted on the initiative of the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption and the Student Authority, and funded with their assistance.