Ethiopian kids struggle to learn Hebrew

Ethiopian children are rarely exposed to Hebrew at home, and only one-third of their parents can read or write the language.

By HAVIV RETTIG GUR
April 18, 2007 23:05
Ethiopian kids struggle to learn Hebrew

falash mura church 224 88. (photo credit: Uriel Heilman)

 
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The gap in reading comprehension and vocabulary between the average schoolchild and their Ethiopian Israeli classmate has grown in recent years, according to a University of Haifa study conducted for the Education Ministry that was published Wednesday. Ethiopian children are rarely exposed to Hebrew at home, and only one-third of their parents can read or write the language, researchers found. At the same time, the children do not learn to read or write their parents' language - usually Amharic - only to speak it. The study, conducted by Dr. Michal Shany of the university's Learning Disabilities Department, tested 326 first- through sixth-graders in several schools. About half were from the Ethiopian community. Studies showing that the gap is closing have focused on less-sophisticated processes such as word comprehension or reading precision, according to Shany, who has published on literacy among Ethiopian children in the past . In more complex processes such as reading comprehension and vocabulary, abilities crucial for later academic excellence, Ethiopians lag far behind other Israelis, Shany said.


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