Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday announced a new program to improve English skills among Israeli schoolchildren with a focus on spoken language.
The plan, titled “Give me five” in a reference to the highest level of English studies available to high-schoolers, will see some 1,000 extra teachers hired and additional English tuition hours offered.
“We want to see school graduates capable of having a full and intelligent conversation anywhere in the world,” Bennett said at a press conference at the ministry’s offices in Tel Aviv. “An Israeli child must be equipped with spoken English. It is a basic requirement in high-tech.”
To improve English instruction, the ministry will hire 1,000 teachers from Israel and abroad along with 950 assistant educators, all fluent in the language. The NIS 70 million ($19 million) plan is to be fully implemented by 2020.
Specifically, the ministry hopes to raise the number of pupils graduating high school with high or advanced levels of English language from the current 62 percent to 70%, while reducing the rate of those who fail from 20% to just 15%.
Classes dedicated to verbal skills are to be added to the school day to provide opportunities for pupils to speak in English, including informal tuition methods such as public speaking and debating for 8th-graders.
Matriculation examinations will include an oral test conducted via computer or a Skype video call with an examiner. The computerized tests will be in the form of video clips emailed to students, who will be required to record themselves answering comprehension questions in English.
Last year 350 pupils took part in a pilot program, which will be expanded to 1,500 pupils in the coming year, the Ynet news website reported.
Bennett said the program will increase the number of pupils who graduate school with an English matriculation and improve the levels of tutoring in the language.
The aim, he explained, is to produce students who are comfortable reading a book or academic text in English and who can communicate easily with people around the world.
“Every boy and girl in Israel needs to know how to converse in English at a high level, to write, to read,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “This not a luxury; this is an essential need in 2017.”