English-language blitz coming for Israeli undergrads

Over next 5 years, universities and colleges will need to find ways to teach reading, writing, comprehension and speech, for better academic performance and prep for job market

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Illustrative: Students at Tel Aviv University on October 14, 2018. (Flash90)
Illustrative: Students at Tel Aviv University on October 14, 2018. (Flash90)

The Council for Higher Education (CHE) has approved a reform that aims to “significantly” improve the English-language skills of Israeli college and university students, to better prepare them to “succeed in the 21st century labor market.”

As part of the reform, over the next five years, academic institutions will need to set out study methods to ensure students gain the basic skills of English reading, writing, comprehension and speech. The programs will be based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), the council said in a statement on Tuesday. The CEFR is a guideline on how to measure the achievements of learners of foreign languages in Europe.

As part of the new reform, all students starting undergraduate studies as of the 2021-22 school year will take at least two courses in the English language. The courses that students take will be determined according to their level of English when they’re accepted, the CHE said in a statement on Tuesday.

As a result of the reform, dozens of new English-language courses will be developed in Israeli universities and colleges. The reform is a result of a report submitted by the CHE’s Quality Assessment Division, which examined various fields of study, including English, in higher education with the aim of improving the quality of academic learning.

The committee agreed that proficiency in English-language skills is required to understand the background materials in academic courses as well as to facilitate the best possible integration of students into the workforce.

The push for English studies comes as the CHE is seeking to increase the number of international students studying in Israel as part of its “Study in Israel” program, which will enable academic institutions to open programs taught in English and that would integrate students from around the world.

The CHE and its Planning and Budgeting Committee will assist academic institutions in preparing for this initiative and recommends setting up systems to train English lecturers to teach English skills and to translate courses into English. The CHE also recommends that higher education institutions establish ways to identify and assist students who are having trouble with English-language studies.

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