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A new initiative to better integrate immigrant children into the education system was announced Monday by the Education Ministry.
The program's primary efforts will focus on offering immigrant pupils, who number over 113,000 today, to study Hebrew through a computerized extracurricular "virtual ulpan," to take matriculation exams in their mother tongue and to study Bible with a translation.
The plan includes guaranteeing a minimum of six weekly study hours per school dedicated to teaching Hebrew to new immigrants, even if the teaching hours are devoted to a single pupil. Two Hebrew education programs for "veteran immigrants," Misholim (Paths) and Sha'al (Hebrew Improvement for Olim), will be expanded by 50%, reaching some 7,000 middle and high school students. A pilot program set to begin this year will pair some 340 immigrant pupils with special Hebrew tutors.
In addition, high school students who are recent immigrants will be allowed to take exams in English, Amharic, Russian, French or Spanish, or, in some cases, to be tested orally on the material. Students who do not pass the matriculation exams will be offered courses built to cover the material they are missing.
The new plan also provides funding to programs that work to integrate immigrant schoolchildren into society, including employing educational staff from the pupils' home countries. Some 80 "educational intercultural interlocutors" will work with 20,000 pupils in the education system, while 43 permanent home-visitation officers will work with students and families in towns with large immigrant populations.
Teachers will also be offered courses on the culture from which the pupils come, and additional hours were added to Hebrew as a second language training.