Israeli Universities to Require Students to Take English-taught Courses

Council for Higher Education approves new plan, which applies to undergraduate students on all levels of English proficiency

Hebrew University of Jerusalem, August 2018.
Olivier Fitoussi

Israel’s Council for Higher Education approved on Tuesday a new plan for English-language studies, by which all students will have to take at least two courses taught in English during the course of their undergraduate studies.

The plan goes into effect next year, and also applies to students who are exempt from having to study English. Courses taught in English are currently not part of the curriculum. Students taking them currently pay extra for such courses and do not receive course credit for them, unless they attained exemption level on their psychometric or similar exams.

The character of courses for improving one’s English will be adapted to the standard of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, which focuses on four areas of proficiency: reading, writing, comprehension and speaking. The psychometric exam in English is also expected to change in the coming years to include these four areas. The Education Ministry also pledged to change its English studies program, including the matriculation exam, in accordance with the European standard.

The plan goes into effect October 2020, and will be introduced gradually over a five-year period. Approval of the plan came via recommendations of the international committee that the council appointed early last year. The council included experts in English as a second language in academics.

The council did reject the committee’s recommendation to enable qualifying students to take prerequisite courses in English as part of a government-funded preparatory program. As a result, students with low English skills will still have to take such courses privately at a cost of around 3,000 shekels ($860) per course. Students will not be charged an additional amount for the new courses in English that they take as part of their B.A. studies.