Some 60 teachers attended the PaJeS division’s Third Annual Ivrit Teachers’ Conference on June 18th. The event included contributions from local experts in modern foreign language teaching and as a thought provoking finale, a talk from Mrs Zahava Taub, who in addition to being a world class educator is also the wife of the current Israeli Ambassador.
The conference came shortly after a series of consultations on Israel education, organised though JPR and the Pears Foundation, and run by the Makom organisation in Jerusalem. It seems indeed that Ivrit and Israel education are hot topics at the moment, not just in the UK. I recently had conversations with Jewish schools in South Africa, where numbers taking Ivrit to the highest levels are under pressure from changes in University requirements. Samantha Benson, PaJeS’ Ivrit Curriculum Leader, participated recently in a seminar in Paris, for teachers across Europe who are looking for new methods for teaching Ivrit. There seems to be an interesting paradox here. On the one hand, European Jewish schools, like South African Jewish schools (and indeed North American schools) still see fluency in Ivrit, whatever the pressures, as a fundamental aim of Jewish education. In England, on the other hand, it remains a laudable goal, but hardly a fundamental aim of most of the Jewish school system. Yet it is the new programmes developed through PaJeS that are becoming sought after internationally, as they are recognised to be high quality, state of the art approaches. Similarly the level of training here is arguably amongst the best in the world. This will become even more apparent as the new Secondary Ivrit Programme is rolled out. Part of the role of PaJeS, therefore, may be to help Jewish schools maximise the potential of both Ivrit and Israel education. This, and other questions about purposes and practices, will form part of the planned PaJeS conference in December, which will explore what opportunities a new, slimmed down national curriculum presents for Jewish schools.