Immigrant Absorption Ministry looks to reform ulpan system

Ministry’s director-general says meetings will take place in coming weeks to create comprehensive plan for improving ulpanim, teaching methods.

February 3, 2010 01:20
2 minute read.
Immigrant Absorption Ministry looks to reform ulpan system

ulpan etzion aj 248.8. (photo credit: ariel jerozolimski)

The Immigrant Absorption Ministry is looking to overhaul Hebrew language instruction program for new immigrants, following the publication last month of a report that shows the current system has failed most of those arriving in the country, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

According to the ministry’s director-general Dmitry Apartsev, who spoke on Tuesday at the Knesset’s Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee on the subject, meetings will take place in the coming weeks between experts from his ministry and from the Education Ministry, which oversees all adult learning in the country, to create a comprehensive plan for improving ulpanim and their teaching methods.

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“Our research has shown that there is a real failure among new immigrants to learn adequate Hebrew,” Apartsev told the Post in an interview following the committee meeting. “And without adequate Hebrew language teaching the entire immigration and absorption process fails.”

While he acknowledged that core problems with the ulpan system were not a new discovery – his predecessor Erez Halfon attempted two years ago to privatize Hebrew language instruction using private educational companies such as Berlitz and Wall Street – Apartsev said it was up to the Education Ministry to implement reforms in the way Hebrew is taught to immigrants.

“Our priority is the rights and welfare of new immigrants,” Apartsev said. “We cannot make recommendations on how to teach Hebrew, but we can point out that what exists now is not working and make suggestions... When new immigrants do not learn a language like they are supposed to, then it is a problem for the entire society.”

Apartsev said the key was to teach olim Hebrew as a second language and not as though it was their first language. He also said there needed to be changes in the physical conditions of the ulpan classrooms and in the texts. “[Immigrant Absorption Minister] Sofa Landver asked me to make this a top priority for our office and that is exactly what I am doing,” said Apartsev.

In an interview with the minister last month, she told the Post “there is a clear problem with the current ulpan courses and many new immigrants fail to finish the initial program with a vocabulary that will allow them to function in daily life in here.”

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