Religious students in Israel are less proficient in English than their Secular peers

English week at Ulpanat Bnei Akiva Neria
A recently released study of the educational systems in Israel revealed that religious-Zionist high school graduates in Israel were less prepared for university-level English than their secular peers.

The study, conducted by Ariel Finkelstein for the 'Ne'emanei Torah Va'Avodah' religious-Zionist movement, was based on a sampling of psychometric exams for college entrance from the years 2000 to 2012. The findings were conclusive: religious students consistently scored 11 and 15 points below secular students in English proficiency, while on par or better than their secular peers in every other subject.

YBA Educational Network
Director General Elchanan Glatt
"To some extent this is understandable, given the extra hours and emphasis on Jewish Studies in religious schools that doesn't exist in secular schools," said Elchanan Glatt, the Director General of the Yeshivot Bnei Akiva Educational Network in Israel, "still, these findings are worrisome for religious Zionist educators. Perhaps in the past some elements in the religious Zionist public saw the study of foreign languages as unimportant. But that worldview is no longer relevant. Today it is clear to everyone that speaking a foreign language fluently, especially English, is an essential part of a high-quality education."

Glatt pointed to two graduates of YBA high schools as personal examples: Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipy Hotovely and Minister of Education Naftali Bennett. "Today's generation sees YBA graduates in the Knesset, and eloquently presenting Israel's case in English in the international media, and they understand the importance of English. They know that English is the international language in computer sciences, medicine, physics and every other scientific field, including the social sciences such as sociology or history."

Glatt stressed that the YBA educational network was taking the findings seriously and working to close the gaps in English proficiency. YBA created a new position for a network-wide English Instruction Supervisor to advise schools on how they can improve. In-service training programs are being planned for English teachers, and measurable benchmark goals are being set for each school. "The process should take two years to fully implement before we will be able to see quantifiable results," he said. "The improvement won't come at the expense of our Jewish Studies program. We have enough hours for English lessons, we just have to invest in making those hours as effective and productive as possible."

Israel's Chief Rabbi: "The work of Jewish educators is more important than the work of the Rabbinate"

Chief Rabbi David Lau with Mayor Avi Roeh
Ulpanat Bnei Akiva Neria, in the settlement of Neria, is one of 15 YBA schools in ‘Yesha’ – Yehuda and Shomron; Israel’s historic heartland – and has been Training Israel’s Future™ since its founding in 2004. The school, serving 280 girls in grades 7-12, meets the need for high-quality Jewish education for girls living in the settlements of the Benjamin region.

Last week, the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi David Lau, visited the school accompanied by the mayor of the Benjamin Regional Council, Avi Roeh. In his comments to the students the Chief Rabbi compared Jewish education to an arrow: “You have to aim an arrow carefully before releasing it if you want to hit the bull’s eye,” he said. “So it is with Jewish education early in life; a student has to be given the tools needed to succeed in life after graduation. In many ways, the work of the Jewish teacher is more important than the work of the Rabbinate. The teacher teaches Derech Eretz (the way of the world) and how to learn, which form the basis for continuing a life of Torah study and observance of mitzvot.”

“It is important to remain connected to the Jewish values you are learning here,” Mayor Roeh commented the school’s students, “so that you will go on bring together the Land, the Nation and the Torah of Israel.”

UBA Neria is named after Rabbi Moshe Zvi Neria z”l, the founder of the first Bnei Akiva yeshiva high school in 1940, YBA Kfar Haroeh, and spiritual father of the “kipa sruga” revolution in Israel society. 2015 marks 75 years since the modest beginnings of the YBA educational network, which led to today’s generation of YBA-trained leaders. 

"For YBA, the Green Line doesn't exist," says Rabbi Beni Nachtailer at UBA Neria...

 Mateh Binyamin Mayor Avi Roeh, 
cutting the ribbon at UBA Neria
"For YBA, the Green Line doesn't exist." so said Rabbi Beni Nachtailer,Director General of the YBA Educational Network in Israel, at the dedication ceremony of new dormitory buildings at UBA Neria this month. "We are committed to opening schools wherever there is a need for quality religious Zionist education in the entire Land of Israel." 

That is the reason why the YBA network opened UBA Neria ten years ago in the Talmon block of settlements within the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council. In total, 14 of the network's 74 schools are located in Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights.

The new dormitory buildings replace the aging caravans the school has used since its founding in 2004. The new buildings, while still temporary in nature, will provide a vastly improved quality of life for the school's 300 students until a permanent residential facility can be built.

Funding for the new structures was provided by the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council. Mayor Avi Roeh was joined by other public officials in formally opening the new facility.

UBA Neria is named after Rabbi Moshe Zvi Neria, z”l, the founder of the first YBA yeshiva high school in 1940, and spiritual mentor of the ‘Kipa Seruga’ generation, which has moved into leadership positions in the IDF and in all aspects of Israeli society in recent years.

YESHIVOT BNEI AKIVA - Training Israel’s Future.TM