Free Online English Course Means Layoffs at Israeli College

Ashkelon Academic College says it’s keeping more English teachers than its rivals, but the lecturers lament the online course promoted by Education Minister Naftali Bennett.

Ashkelon Academic College
Limor Edrey

Almost all the English lecturers at Ashkelon Academic College have been summoned to pre-dismissal or hour-reduction hearings because the school is pushing a free online course, the college’s faculty association says.

The free online course has been introduced by Education Minister Naftali Bennett, and the country's universities have unanimously expressed their rejection.  For its part, Ashkelon Academic College says it is keeping on more English teachers than other colleges.

Twenty-three of the English department’s 26 lecturers are facing dismissal, but only 50 of the college’s 1,800 students who are required to take the course have signed up for it. The course is being offered by the Open University.

According to the lecturers’ committee, students who wanted to sign up for lectures on campus in the summer semester or next year were told there would be no courses and they should sign up for the online course.

In late March, attorneys representing the college told a labor court that the college’s English department was in the process of closing.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett at a Petah Tikva school.
Sasson Tiram

At the beginning of the second semester this year, the college’s president, Shlomo Grossman, and its CEO, Pinhas Haliwa, pledged in a letter that the Council for Higher Education had promised colleges compensation for students who opted for the online course. That way, teachers would not have to be dismissed.

The college said it was facing a drop of 250 students across the board. It said 50 students had opted out of the campus English courses and the money from the council was only to cover the second semester.

“Nevertheless, the college has made the courageous decision ahead of the next academic year to keep on more than 10 English lecturers (8.5 positions), in contrast to other colleges,” the college said in a statement. “Students can choose between the online courses or classroom courses.”