JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel will spend nearly $20 million on a new program to improve the English skills of its schoolchildren.
At a news conference Wednesday announcing the Give Me Five program, Education Minister Naftali Bennett said that not knowing how to speak English well is hurting Israelis in business and in life.
The plan will enable the hiring of 1,000 teachers who are fluent in English. Israeli students start learning English in the third grade.
The focus will be on speaking the language. More classes will be dedicated to verbal skills, and matriculation exams will include more verbal testing, including some tests done via Skype with a remote examiner.
“We want to see children who are able to engage in an intelligent conversation anywhere in the world, who are able to correspond via email at a high standard, who can consume literature at the highest level,” Bennett said at the news conference. “In addition to the raised standard of mathematics and science, the connection to English will be the factor that will reduce gaps in society the most.”
One goal of the program is to increase the number of students in the advanced high school English classes, which count for five points on a student’s grade point average, thus the program’s name. Improving the quality of English teachers and English resources in schools are other aims.
Bennett is the son of immigrants from the United States and is a fluent English speaker.
Most schools in Israel start Friday.