More than 6,600 students were learning Hebrew in a public-school or charter-school setting in 2018 in the US, according to a report issued by CASJE, the Consortium for Applied Studies in Jewish Education, and George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development.
The report, “Mapping Hebrew Education in Public Schools: A Resource for Hebrew Educators” further noted that 35 schools were offering Hebrew-language classes. Of that number, 17 schools serve students in either elementary or middle school, while 18 serve grades nine through 12. And, according to the survey, 19 of the schools reported increased enrollment in Hebrew classes with only 1 school reporting a decline in the last five to 10 years.
“We really had no idea what we would find; we just had a sense that there were schools out there,” said Sharon Avni, who co-wrote the report with Avital Karpman. “I think the biggest surprise is that there are 2,000 students in traditional public schools studying Hebrew language.”
Despite the increase in interest, the total number of schools and students with Hebrew education remains relatively small compared to the number of Jewish students in the public-school sphere. Experts believe that could change if one deficiency was rectified: the lack of qualified, accredited Hebrew-language teachers.
For years, say those in the field, Jewish schools relied on people who were simply fluent Hebrew speakers to teach Hebrew-language lessons, regardless of whether or not they were experienced teachers; understood educational pedagogy surrounding teaching as a second language; or even knew about classroom management and assessments. Such ad hoc education would not be welcome in most public-school systems.
To ensure that teachers of Hebrew language have the proper tools to be effective educators, the School of Hebrew at Middlebury College in Vermont offers a master’s degree in teaching Hebrew as a second language.
Read the entire article at JNS.