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The Education Ministry has decided to cancel English classes for native English-speaking pupils at the end of the current school year, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The courses in question, offered to thousands of students at all age-levels who excel in English, depending on parent interest, are classified as TALAN (tigbur limud nosaf) - Education Ministry-recognized enrichment courses that take place outside the ministry's formal curriculum.
According to a letter posted on the Web site of the English Teachers' Network in Israel (www.etni.org), the decision to cancel the program follows a parental protest over the fact that the courses are not funded by the Education Ministry, but rather require parents to pay for the teachers.
The program's cancellation would be "disastrous," one English teacher in the Sharon area, a native English speaker herself, told the Post. "[The native-speakers'] level of English is very different, and the overall level of English would suffer."
Right now, she said, "everybody is happy with the program. The kids are highly motivated. They work hard and enjoy the lessons. The teachers love not having these kids in the main classes. The principals like it, too."
Since the pupils in the program are native speakers, the special classes can offer English lessons on a level closer to English-speaking countries.
"The students feel the difference," the teacher said. "We teach literature and language and drama and Shakespeare and everything else. This is a major advantage, especially if you want to attract olim who will want to know their kids will get an education."
While some high school principals have told their teachers next year's program is canceled, many teachers have not yet been told.
"Our fear is that the ministry will only announce this in July or August, when it's too late to change anything," said Hod Hasharon private English teacher Michele Shaul, whose oldest child will be starting in the native English speaker's classes next year, if they are still offered.
Meanwhile, the Education Ministry has told municipalities that if they want the program to continue, they should fund it, several parents with children in the program told the Post.
The program will continue in Ra'anana, where parents have arranged with the city to run the parent-funded program through the municipality. In other cities, however, the program is not so organized, being run through parents' committees or other grassroots organizations.
"Ra'anana has money and active parents," said Shaul. "What happens to those municipalities where this doesn't happen? Am I going to send my child to a class where other kids are learning ABC's while my kids are reading?"
For another teacher, "the most important thing is to put order to this process, to standardize it, regardless of who pays for it."
Following a Post inquiry, an Education Ministry representative promised "the ministry would develop a program to provide a solution [appropriate] for these students' abilities."
The TALAN framework "turned out to be the wrong framework for these courses," since unlike other enrichment courses, they are limited to a small number of students, the representative said, promising that a systematic solution would be in place by the start of the 5768 school year in September.