Like other countries around the world, Israel is facing a shortage of teachers and students entering the fields of science, math and English. In particular, there arent enough high school students taking high-level matriculation exams (four and five points) in math, English and the sciences, especially in the countrys geographic and socio-economic periphery.
In an effort to help solve this problem, Beit Berl College has been given the go-ahead by the Council for Higher Education to offer groundbreaking Masters in Teaching (M.Teach) programs starting next year.
Breaking the cycle
According to Dr. Aviva Klieger, who heads the colleges new M.Teach programs, Beit Berl is the countrys pioneer in this area, since no other college or university has been authorized to run this innovative course of study, which leads to a Masters degree plus a teaching certificate.
Not only are science, math, and English teachers in short supply, Dr. Klieger explained, but the pool of qualified professionals – including engineers and technicians in a wide variety of areas – is lagging far behind industry needs. Training excellent teachers in these disciplines is a matter of survival for Israel, if we want to retain our position as an economic superpower at the forefront of scientific and technological advancements, she stressed.
As a stopgap, people without pedagogical or didactic background have been recruited to teach these core subjects in high schools around the country. Even when students want to major in a specific science, they are often turned away either due to the lack of qualified teachers or because of insufficient interest in the subject on the part of fellow students. This has led to a grave vicious cycle: a dearth of eligible applicants in these fields in colleges and universities, and a concomitant shortage of professionals in academic research and industry, and of course, high school teachers.
In chemistry, for example, we are facing an immediate need for 200 teachers, notes Dr. Klieger. The field also suffers from an image problem among high school students, although the number of Arab students majoring in chemistry is on the rise. She underscored the need to interest students in chemistry and other sciences by, among other things, introducing them to the exciting developments in academic research and industry. Dr. Klieger also cited the gap between the Jewish and Arab sectors in these crucial subjects, stressing that there is a need to improve the way these subjects are taught in Arab secondary schools.
Beit Berl College is well-positioned to meet this challenge. Already acknowledged for its high academic standards, it has extensive experience training teachers in English, mathematics and sciences (computer science, physics, chemistry, biology and environmental studies). Furthermore, its faculty and student body come from both the Arab and Jewish sectors.
Given its practical-social orientation, Dr. Klieger pointed out, the College is geared toward providing students with the professional training and development they need to prepare them for long-term careers in education. The M.Teach programs offer practical teaching and internships in schools, with ongoing support and training. Students receive intensified clinical experiences in schools, training that combines pedagogical and technological advances in teaching and learning, she stressed.
In keeping with the model adopted in Finland, and now in Norway, where teachers are required to have graduate degrees, Beit Berls vanguard M.Teach program aims to turn out professional teachers with graduate degrees and teaching certificates to teach in middle and high schools, Dr. Klieger explained. Not only do they come away with these qualifications, but they also acquire a deeper knowledge base in their fields of interest, she added.
A learning community
At this stage, the program is being offered in English, mathematics, chemistry and biology. Students are required to accumulate 36 academic credits but do not have to write a thesis. Since most of them will still be working in their first career professions, studies and practical work are confined to two days a week. Concentrating on educational theory in the first year, they work toward earning the teaching certificate required by the Ministry of Education, studying such topics as class management, social diversity and research methods in the field of education.
In addition, students also take graduate level courses in their disciplines, as well as subjects such as the philosophy of science. They are also exposed to various up-to-date and interdisciplinary approaches in science teaching, and learn how best to incorporate the latest technology and laboratory work in the classroom. They are also taught how to prepare students for the matriculation exams and how to construct tests.
As part of the M.Teach program, students spend one day a week in schools, observing and student-teaching under the guidance and supervision of experienced teachers and pedagogical advisors. They are not simply thrown into classrooms, but acquire the tools necessary to cope with and become part of the school culture and environment. A learning community is created for each student, says Dr. Klieger. There is a supportive environment in the school composed of the student, a teacher/mentor from their discipline, and a pedagogical advisor. Aside from the internships, the program helps graduates find permanent placements in schools.
Passionate about their fields
The College prides itself on its pluralistic, multicultural atmosphere and the diversity of its student body. Prof. Tamar Ariav, President of Beit Berl College, emphasized, We understand that diversity is a gift, not a burden; that the intermingling of ideas and cultures fuels creativity and sparks innovation.
Although it is assumed that Arab graduates of Beit Berls M.Teach program will teach in Arabic, this is not necessarily the case – especially since the language of instruction of the M.Teach programs is Hebrew. Moreover, unlike in the Jewish sector, the number of Arab science teachers has grown in recent years, and since there are not enough positions available for science teachers in Arab schools, they are being recruited by Jewish middle and high schools.
Many of the applicants to this program, who must have Bachelor degrees from accredited institutions, have made their fortunes in high-tech and other industries, and are embarking on a second career for ideological reasons. They are passionate about their fields and want to pass their enthusiasm on to their students, while arousing their interest and curiosity in science and math.
In fact, as Dr. Klieger explained, this is one of the programs aims. We are not only preparing highly qualified teachers with graduate degrees, but also giving them the tools they need to inspire their students with a love of their subjects, so that they will choose to further their studies, and go on to become leaders in these fields in the future.
Teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL)
Given the status of English as a global language, the demand for teaching English is constantly growing in Israel and around the world. To help meet this demand, the Department of English at Beit Berl College offers a wide range of courses in the following main areas: English Language and Linguistics, English Literature and Culture, Literacy, and Language Teaching Methodology – all taught in English. Graduates of these programs are in high demand in schools throughout the country.
Students can specialize in areas such as: the young learner, special needs students, and incorporating technology and other innovations in EFL instruction. Beit Berl graduates have deep subject-matter and pedagogical knowledge, are up-to-date with the latest research in the field, and are devoted to their work with pupils at school. Students work closely with excellent course and pedagogical instructors, who are active scholars in fields such as language acquisition, multilingualism, literature, teacher cognition and assessment and learning disabilities.
The following TEFL Certificate Programs are offered at Beit Berl:
1. Bachelor of/Baccalaureate in Education (B.Ed.) with a specialization in Teaching English as a Foreign Language
2. A Retraining Program for Academics (holding undergraduate or graduate degree from an accredited university)
3. A Retraining Program for Practicing Teachers (from other disciplines), and
4. Masters in Teaching with specialization in TEFL for secondary schools
Specialization Modules include: Teaching English to Students with Special Needs, Teaching English to Young Learners, and Elective courses leading towards a certificate in Translation (English-Hebrew/Hebrew-English).
Beit Berls unique Tutors Program prepares graduates for tutoring or teaching English in small groups at primary, secondary and adult levels.
Students studying toward a teaching certificate are eligible for a scholarship issued by the Ministry of Education. Merit scholarships and awards based on academic achievements, diligence, and community service are also available. Students receive personal guidance and support in both EFL courses and practical experience. The small class sizes, flexible study schedules and excellent teaching place Beit Berls teacher education programs in high demand.