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The ways of Israel's educational system have always been mysterious. Now they are becoming downright inexplicable, with the semi-official announcement last week of the upcoming termination of the program that provides special language classes for native speakers of English and those with ample English proficiency.
The move is outrageous, and must be resisted.
The pretext proffered is fiscal. The special program isn't financed by the Education Ministry, none of the municipalities are willing to pick up the tab and the burden always falls on the parents.
Nevertheless, on the whole, the various local arrangements work. Not too many municipalities are involved, as not many locations around the country attract enough English speakers to warrant special frameworks.
Why mess with a good thing? There is no good reason whatsoever. It is frankly unfathomable that it is in this area that the Education Ministry chooses to flex its muscle, even as it presides over a school system beset by critical failings, and flounders in the midst of an intolerable ongoing strike that is destroying this year's classes.
Underpinned by a variety of local ad hoc solutions, the English-speakers program supplies an essential service to native Israeli children with high English proficiency and to the children of immigrants, immensely smoothing their way forward into higher education and high-level careers.
By all reasonable yardsticks, this ought to be the last priority for the ministry to tinker with, except to improve it further.
The numbers of both pupils and teachers involved is, in fact, sufficiently small to allow for ministry financing where the demand exists. Moreover, English is no luxury in our cultural, technical and economic environment. English is today's lingua franca and the rise of the Internet has only made it even more vital than ever before.
The overall achievements of our school system in imparting a working level of English - as distinguished from an embarrassing assortment of peculiar patterns of appalling idiosyncratic usage - have been anything but impressive.
What the country actually needs in an infusion of excellence. To willfully stifle the little excellence that exists is mind-boggling.
Where special programs are absent, English-speaking youngsters frequently waste their skills and advantage. Occasionally they become disruptive elements in classes where English is taught as a foreign language and where their superior command of the language challenges the authority of native Hebrew-speaking teachers of English.
Cases in which Anglo children are forbidden to speak their mother-tongue in school have been reported throughout the Dan Region.
It's patently absurd for a cash-strapped country, which expends so much energy and resources to teach English, to now actively suppress the fluent English of some of its pupil-population.
Classes that offer language instruction at a level commensurate with youngsters' abilities plainly make sense. They also meet our nation's Zionist imperative, cushioning the absorption of immigrants from English-speaking countries and encouraging more to come.
Canceling an educational option that so effectively serves the purposes of aliya absorption is incomprehensible in a country that proclaims its wish to attract more Western immigration.
This move is born of the same skewed philosophy that advocates doing away with classes for gifted children lest they countermand egalitarian goals. According to this distorted perception, the lowest common denominator is the most democratic.
Far from being eliminated, a program that allows immigrants a softer landing and makes use of an immensely valuable skill imported into our society ought to be encouraged rather than discontinued. The expenditure involved is minuscule, especially when compared to spendthrift and empirically failed innovative methods of teaching the three R's.
We implore the Education Ministry to reconsider. It's high time our pedagogic gurus learn the simplest lesson of them all: leave well enough alone.