'Unprepared' is the w-o-r-d

Junior high school principals complain they are receiving students from Tel Aviv's elementary schools who can't read Hebrew.

girl reading 88 (photo credit: )
girl reading 88
(photo credit: )
Dozens of children are graduating from elementary schools in Tel Aviv every year without having learned to read or write Hebrew properly, reports Yediot Tel Aviv. But the authorities are still allowing them to proceed to junior high school, and this is infuriating secondary school principals. "Every year I get about 20 pupils who have great difficulty in reading (Hebrew)," said Dr. Avi Benvenisti, the principal of the Ironi Tet school. "Students are starting seventh grade not knowing all the consonants or not pronouncing them correctly. There are children who have trouble with long words." Similarly, the principal of Tichon Hadash, Haya Shoham, said she too was encountering students who were beginning seventh grade without being able to read Hebrew properly. She said she first noticed the problem last year, when the city began to allow students completing sixth grade to choose from any junior high school in the city, rather than being relegated to particular schools. "Now we have students from the south of the city, and some of them don't even know the alphabet while some cannot read a single line fluently," she said. According to the report, most of the students with reading difficulties are immigrants for whom Hebrew is a new language. But despite their not having mastered the basics of reading and writing, they have been allowed to go up a grade each year and to graduate from elementary schools. Now secondary school principals have begun to rebel against accepting them. "A student in seventh grade needs to know how to read," Shoham said. "They learn Tanach, literature, heritage … four children came to us with zero knowledge of Hebrew, zero; how can this happen?" Shoham added that her school had been forced to open a special class for the students with Hebrew difficulties, which was problematic both for the school and for the students themselves, who then missed out on other classes such as English and Arabic or French. A spokesman for the Tel Aviv district office of the Education Ministry said the complaints about the standards at the city's elementary schools were "unknown to us" and that national tests had not revealed any problem. The spokesman added that every student with difficulties was given "suitable care." And a municipal spokesman said that every year the city tested all elementary schools in Hebrew, English and mathematics, and aimed to find any students with difficulties "and to close the gap by the end of their first year in junior high school." The spokesman added that Tel Aviv's high matriculation rate indicated that the system was working "correctly and professionally."