All fourth- to eighth-graders in Israel will get the opportunity starting September to hone their spoken English skills in after-school lessons costing just NIS 4 ($1.10) an hour, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported Sunday.
The joint initiative of the Education Ministry and the Association of Community Centers’ Shalem volunteer organization will make affordable lessons that would cost around NIS 150-200 ($42-55) privately.
Shalem will provide the English-speaking teachers from its pool of community volunteer retirees.
The lessons will take place in community centers across the country, with groups numbering no more than six pupils.
The nationwide program, based on a successful pilot, forms part of a push by Education Minister Naftali Bennett — himself the son of American immigrants — to improve English levels in schools.
Last August, he unveiled a program called “Give Me Five” in reference to the highest level of English studies available to high-schoolers. At the launch of the NIS 70 million ($19 million) program, to be fully implemented by 2020, the education minister said some 1,000 extra teachers would be hired from Israel and overseas along with 950 assistant educators, all fluent in English.
The ministry hopes to raise the number of pupils graduating high school with high or advanced levels of English from the current 62 percent to 70%, while reducing the rate of those who fail from 20% to 15%.
On the new after-school spoken English initiative, Bennett said, “Learning English for the price of a popsicle is something we’ve not had yet.”
He went on, “We thought up a solution that would be cheap for parents, close to home and also experiential for the pupils in order to improve their English already from a young age.
“In the 21st century, a knowledge of English is not a bonus, it’s basic,” Bennett added. “Fluency in a language is an essential tool for communicating with people from all over the world and I want to know that graduates of the education system are equipped with this ability in their adult lives.”
The chairman of the Association of Community Centers, Aviad Friedman, said his organization was currently working to recruit additional English-speaking volunteers.