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English teachers may 'mutiny' over new literature section of matriculation exam

נובמבר 25, 2009. Jerusalem Post: Abe Selig

In what may be the beginning of a revolt by the country's English teachers, over 30 English department heads at Jerusalem-area schools have signed a petition saying they will refuse to implement a proposed revision of the literature section for the English matriculation (bagrut) exams, because of widespread dissatisfaction with the syllabus.

The petition, which was sent along with a letter two weeks ago to both Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar and Education Ministry Director-General Dr. Shimshon Shoshani, states that teachers' concerns over the new program have not been addressed, save for "a few very minor alterations," and that the ministry's English Inspectorate, with whom the teachers first discussed their reservations, had given the issue "no real consideration."

"Although we all enjoy teaching literature and recognize its value, we unanimously refuse to implement the program as it stands now," the letter read.

"We insist that implementation be delayed until the problems, concerns and issues raised by the teachers in the field are dealt with in an acceptable manner."

In addition to the petition, the Secondary School Teachers Organization (SSTO), has also declared that its members will not attend the inservice training course that qualifies teachers for the new program, meaning that the "rebellion" could spread beyond the Jerusalem area.

"We fully support the English teachers in this matter," a union spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. "We understand their concerns, and that the amount of work this new program would add to their already heavy load is completely unacceptable."

While one Jerusalem-area teacher told the Post that the current impasse would not likely result in a teachers' strike, it could cause "much confusion" if this program were forced on the teaching staff, only a few years after the English exam had undergone other major changes.

"A lot of teachers just aren't ready to take this new program on," the Jerusalem-area teacher, who requested anonymity, said. "But if they are forced to implement it, I don't see how they'd even be ready to begin teaching by the beginning of next year."

Moreover, the teacher added, those who had already participated in the training course for the program had given the ministry negative feedback on what they had seen.

"These are experienced teachers who have been teaching for a long time," the teacher said. "It's as if the [Education Ministry] doesn't trust our intuition."

K., a Tel Aviv-area English teacher, said that she would refuse to implement the new program no matter what the consequence, saying that the new requirements "took the joy" out of teaching English Literature.

"It's killing one of the last things that English teachers treasure," the teacher added. "No one really knows where this is going to end up."

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