Parents fight to save English classes

Education Ministry itself uncertain about program's future.

a b c 88 (photo credit: )
a b c 88
(photo credit: )
Frustrated parents of native English-speaking schoolchildren in the Sharon area have banded together to demand an explanation from the Education Ministry regarding the imminent cancellation of native English-speaking classes, and will turn to the High Court of Justice if their request is denied. The parent-funded lessons have been running for three decades, while the Education Ministry has refused to explain to parents why and if they will be stopped. The Jerusalem Post was first to report last month on the ministry's plan to halt classes for English-speaking pupils at the end of the current school year. Now, a group of some 100 parents from Hod Hasharon and other towns in the Sharon region have joined together to petition the High Court of Justice, claiming that the unexpected cancellation would harm students needlessly and constitutes a violation of administrative due process. Parents learned of the cancellation "through rumors," said Lisa Segelov, Advo., a parent of native English-speaking students and one of the volunteer lawyers who will be filing the petition. "There are a million versions going around about why the program is being canceled." "Nobody knows why it happened," agreed fellow petitioner Atty. Nicole Maor. "What changed? One parent's complaint undermined the ministry's self-confidence?" According to the Education Ministry, the program could not continue in its current form, as a TALAN (tigbur limud nosaf) enrichment program, since ministry regulations require that TALAN courses be accessible to all qualifying students. Since parents pay for the teachers of the native English-speaker courses, the fact that some parents may not be able to afford the classes constitutes a violation of TALAN regulations. Asked on Monday if the ministry could promise that, whatever the framework, the classes would continue, a ministry spokeswoman, citing the possible upcoming High Court petition, would only reply, "I don't know how to answer that." It is the tight-lipped handling of the cancellation - "parents aren't getting straight answers from the ministry, just journalists," said Segelov - that has angered parents and led them to threaten to turn to the High Court. "Native English courses are taught differently from regular English classes," noted Segelov. "It's not a second language, so the material is different and the teacher is different." Forcing native speakers of English to sit in on the regular classes, where their English is often better than the teacher's, is a recipe for educational disaster, say parents. "This will harm the English-speaking students along with all the other children," said Maor, "since it will disrupt the class." On Sunday, Segelov and Maor sent a letter to the Education Ministry stating that if the ministry could not provide clarification regarding the program's future within a week, the parents would file the petition. For now, the parents believe, time is of the essence. As Hod Hasharon private English teacher and native English-speaking parent Michele Shaul told the Post last month of the ministry's reticence, "our fear is that the ministry will only announce this in July or August, when it's too late to change anything."