May 14: Wake up, Education Ministry, wake up!

Why try to fix something that isn't broken?

letters good 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters good 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Sir, - I am a private English teacher for adults and children. I teach both English speakers and those who are breaking their teeth in English. Unfortunately, in the past 10 years at least, the level of English in this country has dropped. Gone are the days when most English teachers were native speakers, and when English and math were taught in smaller classes. It is not uncommon for many English teachers to be extremely weak in the course they are teaching - and to children they are unqualified to deal with. Many of my students complain that English is rarely spoken in their classroom. Everything, it seems, is explained in Hebrew. Now they want to take away English classes for native speakers! If the Education Ministry isn't footing the bill, why should it care that parents have taken it upon themselves to get native speakers to challenge their children? Many parents are willing to pay for these courses. Children learn once a week in my program, and they are given material to keep them busy during their regular English lessons. They are challenged, and they love it! Why try to fix something that isn't broken? Wake-up, Education Ministry! ("Classes for native English speakers to be canceled," May 11.) LESLIE BAKER Beersheba Sir, - I want to become empowered to stop the Education Ministry from making a huge mistake. The program serves a relatively small number of students because only those who pass the entrance exam enter the stream of study. Over the past few years the highest-quality teachers have instructed these classes, and parents have paid willingly. Not all the students are native English speakers, however; high-level English, vital to many professions, should be available in public schools to all. If the ministry must cancel English speakers' classes, why not put an effective program in their place first? One wonders what kind of educators are running our schools these days. SALLY METH Kfar Saba Sir, - I am writing also on behalf of the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel, the Australian Zionist Federation, the English Speaking Friends of Tel Aviv University, the English Speaking Residents Association (ESRA), Nefesh b'Nefesh, the S.A. Zionist Federation (TELFED), and the United Jewish Israel Association. The Education Ministry's decision to cancel classes for native speakers of English is retrograde, shortsighted and damaging to many interests. We understand that there are problems in continuing the classes, but submit that after an objective weighing-up of all the advantages to both the pupils and the broad interests of the state, solutions could and should immediately be found. The burden of finding an immediate solution should not fall on this ministry only, but on every government office and institution concerned with proficiency and clarity in English - Foreign Affairs, Industry, Trade and Labor, research, academia, and the intelligence services, etc., etc. HERTZEL KATZ Chairman, Council of English-Speaking Organizations in Israel Ramat Hasharon Sir, - Many non-English speaking countries, including many in Eastern Europe and the Far East, run special English-speaking schools where everything is done in English. While obviously meant for highly-motivated and select students, the underlying idea is clear: the necessity and importance of knowing English in the modern world, and the educational and professional opportunities it provides. While no one expects the Ministry of Education to open such exclusive schools, the English speakers' curriculum and classes certainly attain similar objectives, as well as fulfilling all the other social and cultural ideals mentioned in your editorial ("Teach English," May 13). To eliminate them because of the usual "lack of funding" excuse is simply absurd. Doesn't anyone in the ministry look beyond their plush desks and offices when considering Israel's future? GERSHON HARRIS Hatzor Haglilit Sir, - Kudos for putting the proposed cancellation of advanced English classes on your front page instead of burying it somewhere inside the paper. Highlighting the issue may benefit native English-speaking kids and their parents greatly. My granddaughter, now in the IDF, was in this program and her English class turned out to be the best and most challenging of all her school career. Fine teaching, amazing curriculum. Surely we won't let this program founder. ELIZABETH RODRIGUEZ Ra'anana Signs of the times Sir, - Again and again as I travel around the country I am annoyed by the road signs in so-called English. Is it not possible stop these arrogant Hebrew speakers from creating words that are an insult to the English language? They seem particularly to like using the double "y" in names like Bene Ziyyon, Mevaseret Ziyyon, Kefar Daniyyel, Daliyya and, worst of all, "Qesariyya" (Caesarea). Is it just a matter of time before signs to the airport are spelled "Ben-Guriyyon"? JULIA HADAR Jerusalem International support Sir, - Israel has always had a fear of actions which would displease "international opinion." In "Gov't to weigh Gaza incursion against Kassam attacks" (May 13), I noted with interest that another consideration the security cabinet must take into account is that such an incursion "could undermine the significant international support Israel's current policy of relative restraint enjoys." Unfortunately, the article did not specify which countries were manifesting such support, or supply evidence that it actually exists. Clearly it was not referring to the EU ambassadors' boycott of Jerusalem Day, or the statement by South African Minister for Intelligence Ronnie Kasrils that Israel is conducting a policy against the Palestinians that is worse than apartheid ("SA minister insists to 'Post' that Hamas has renounced violence," May 13). IRVIN SCHERMER Jerusalem Sir, - When Ronnie Kasrils declares that Hamas has renounced violence in the face of repeated statements from PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal that Hamas has done no such thing, one is tempted to dub him not the minister for intelligence, but its opposite. B. ABRAHAMS Tel Aviv Matter of concern Sir, - Of all the possible "benchmarks" Evelyn Gordon discussed in "Benchmarks for a bloodbath" (May 10), there remains one Condoleezza Rice herself proposed - namely, a Palestinian state must have a contiguous boundary. Such a requirement would leave Israel a fractured, indefensible, vulnerable state awaiting a bloodbath of extinction. GERALD KATZ Haifa Amen! Sir, - Fiamma Nirenstein's latest book, Israel Is Us is a breath of much-needed fresh air in a world in which Israel is regularly demonized and her legitimacy brought into question. Nirenstein's earnest appeal to Europe "to recognize the Jewish state as a model of emulation" is worthy of eliciting one response: Amen! ("Making the case for commonality," May 10). RACHEL BIRATI Melbourne