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The Education Ministry is soon to begin an intensive eight-week training course to turn B.A. graduates in various fields into teachers. At the first stage, two groups of about 100 students are to undergo the training, and begin teaching in the coming school year. Their training will continue throughout the year, the ministry said. To make the program more attractive, the ministry is working to encourage leading companies to offer priority in employment to students who complete two years of teaching.

The new project has come under fire from education colleges, where students train for three years to be teachers. "This is a concept that turns teaching into a sideline, and will crash in the class," the head of Oranim Academic College of Education, Prof. Yair Karo, said yesterday.

A senior figure at one of the universities said yesterday, "the enthusiasm of the heads of the Education Ministry for alternative teaching programs conveys a negative message to students who are studying the field in an organized and methodical manner, as if they are an inferior group, and these are the teachers the Education Ministry is depending on to improve students' achievements."

The program is now awaiting final approval by the Finance Ministry. Various officials involved, from the Education Ministry and other bodies, said an advertising campaign is to be launched in early February, and the training is to begin in July. "The new teachers will be a kind of elite unit, like Unit 8200 in the army," an official involved in the program said, referring to a high-level unit in the Israel Defense Forces' Military Intelligence. "That's how it should be marketed," the official said, in addition to explaining that it is "a privilege to be a teacher."

The program is based on models for expedited teacher training in a number of other countries. Those who are accepted will study education and psychology for about eight weeks. They will receive on-site training in classroom management, a common pitfall for new teachers.

They will begin at the salary of any beginning teacher, unlike the higher-paying program to retrain high-tech professionals as teachers. However, the new teachers might work only 80 percent of a full-time position and receive the entire salary, which will be complemented by outside bodies.

An official involved in the program said the lure of a job with a leading business after the two-year stint in teaching will entice candidates. "A networking system will accompany them from day one, which will help them get to places that they could not otherwise reach," the official said.

Supervision of the new teachers by tutors from the colleges will be very important. "The higher the personal level of the new teacher, the greater our concern that he or she will not be able to deal with the reality in the classroom. Therefore oversight and support must be intensive, to limit the dropout rate as much as possible."

The official said that between 50 and 60 percent of participants in similar programs abroad continued teaching after two or three years.

But according to Karo, "These magical solutions don't work: You can't train 'instant' teachers, even if they stay for a long time. In the previous retraining program, at the beginning of the decade, only 10 percent stayed in the system. It's a waste of money."

An official involved in the new program countered that the extent of the training will be similar to that given in the teachers' colleges, "except that some of the training will be given on the job."

Another official said: "Unfortunately, there is no proof that traditional training is better. It will not be a disaster if there are a number of training channels."