Opportunities for NGO Involvement in the Education of Disadvantaged Children and Youth in Israel: Future Directions for Youth Renewal Fund

Youth Renewal Fund (YRF) is an NGO (non-governmental organization) in the United States and Israel which develops and implements educational programs for disadvantaged children and youth in Israel. YRF commissioned the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute to conduct a study, that would serve as a basis for their strategic planning process, designed to focus on YRF’s optimal role in the changing reality of the Israeli educational system. This information will also be valuable for other organizations working in education in Israel.

The study is based on existing data and the professional literature, as well as in-depth interviews with senior professionals in NGOs and the educational system and educational experts.

The report points to the significant achievement gaps among population groups in Israel, which highlight the need for educational interventions and policy aimed at improving educational opportunities for disadvantaged students. The Israeli educational system is currently searching for better ways to address the needs of disadvantaged students through a number of reform initiatives. The involvement of NGOs in the educational system has greatly expanded in recent years; the report discusses benefits of this activity, as well as problems in the implementation of NGO programs within the schools, as perceived by leaders of the educational system and key professionals at NGOs. YRF programs provide after-school supplemental scholastic support to elementary and secondary school students attending schools in disadvantaged communities. The report also reviews scholastic assistance programs of other similar organizations.

The report provides a synopsis of current research regarding key educational practices for supporting disadvantaged students in specific age groups, focusing on basic skills and cognitive strategies, arrangements for providing supplemental learning inputs, effective teaching strategies with low-achieving students, teacher training programs and work with parents. The main conclusion is that many interventions have the potential to be effective, but the actual level of benefits is dependent on the quality of the implementation efforts.

The report also highlights unmet needs and changes in the education system that provide opportunities and challenges for YRF and other NGOs. Key directions for future development include more focus on work with: children in the early grades of elementary school, Arab children and youth, at-risk children and youth whose school problems also include low motivation and school adjustment problems, teacher training programs and  parents.

YRF has utilized the report in several key areas, including a new focus on cognitive skills, more teacher training, extensive participation for each child and the initiation of a number of evaluation studies.