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April 07, 2016

Brandeis Study Evaluates Jewish College Students' Knowledge on Israel

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A study published in October 2015 by researchers at Brandeis University sought to evaluate knowledge of Israel among Jewish college students. The study, titled the Israel Literacy Measurement Project: 2015, reveals the students' limited knowledge. The survey contained 92 questions including the Middle East Conflict, Geography, History, Government, Religion and Society, Economy and Culture.

642 students were tested in April-June 2014. Most of the survey respondents were first or second year students at 20 selected universities. The average score on the test was 46% correct. Only 8% got more than 3/4 correct.

Student scores from the different schools showed a wide range, from 27% to 59% correct. However, the students from schools considered more selective only did a little better than students from schools considered less selective (49% versus 43%).

Surprisingly, those students who previously had some form of Jewish education only did slightly better (47% versus 42%) than students who stated that they had no prior Jewish education. This result reinforces concern that the Jewish education many children receive is lacking in substance.

Students who claim to regularly read about Israel (52% vs. 45%) and those who have visited Israel (52% vs. 43%) did better than those who answered no to these questions, but the difference was not great.

Interestingly, students who believed Israel should not compromise on the status of Jerusalem and did not trust the Palestinians' sincerity in making peace scored higher on the test than those who felt Israel should compromise on Jerusalem and believed the Palestinians were sincere.

There are always questions about the appropriate level of difficulty whenever such broadbased knowledge tests are given. But the results of this test suggest that general knowledge about Israel among American Jewish students needs improvement.

Posted by SS at April 7, 2016 03:38 PM


I would love to see the test itself. Does anyone have access to it?

On another level, it makes perfect sense to me that those who know more about Israel are those who have concluded that Israel should not compromise on the status of Jerusalem and did not trust the Palestinians' sincerity in making peace.

Posted by: Daniel at April 9, 2016 02:00 PM

The investigative test and questions is pretty reasonable and remembering my own abilities at 20 it is reasonable that so many scored in the high 40's. However it is as revealing of the World we live in and the nature and lacunae of modern schooling that you ended up with the results and questions you achieved.
May I suggest the development of a booklet and website of "teach yourself Israel/Judaism" which recommends: lists of personalities and events to "Google"; some single volume books to read inclusive of two or three historical atlases; to keep one's own notebook.

Posted by: Frank Adam at April 9, 2016 04:45 PM

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