ENGLISH - Curriculum for All Grades
Members of the Curriculum Writing Committee
Professor Bernad Spolsky, Chair
Dvora Ben Meir
Dr. Ofra Inbar
Dr. Lily Orland
Dr. Jean Vermel, Coordinator
Bar Ilan University
Bar Ilan University, Educational Television
Tel Aviv University, Beit Berl College
Haifa University, Oranim School of Education
Chief Inspector of English Language Education
Beit Berl College
In developing the curriculum, the Curriculum Writing Committee has made use of a number of sources. In particular, the Committee was influenced by the "CAN-DO" notion developed some years ago by John L. D. Clark (1978), by the notional-functional syllabus (Wilkins, 1976) and the later Council of Europe Threshold program (van Ek, 1975), by the Netherlands National Foreign Language Program (van Els, 1992), by the U.S. development of national standards for educational excellence as exemplified in the ESL Standards developed by the Center of Applied Linguistics for TESOL (Center for Applied Linguistics, 1997), by various versions of the Foreign Language Standards (National Standards in Foreign Language Education Project, 1996) and by the Department of Education and Employment (The National Curriculum for Modern Foreign Languages in the United Kingdom, 1996). These sources have been drawn on freely, sometimes for framework, sometimes as a checklist, sometimes for felicitous wording of a standard or benchmark that had already been sketched out. But in all this work, our guiding principle has been to cater to the specific needs of the Israeli pupil and reflect the reality of the Israeli educational system. In doing so, we have drawn on the combined experience and wisdom of those who are involved in teaching English in Israel.
The Curriculum Writing Committee would like to acknowledge the contribution of the first chair of the Committee, Prof. Elite Olshtain, Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University. We would also like to acknowledge the contribution of Tova Mittleman, Centre for Educational Technology, an initial member of the Committee.
The first draft of the curriculum was reviewed by inspectors of English and other subject areas, teacher educators, university teachers, coursebook writers and publishers, and especially by practicing teachers. All
comments were carefully considered by the Curriculum Committee and the curriculum was revised accordingly. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those involved.
The official draft copy was published in November, 1998. Revisions were made to the official draft copy as a result of feedback from the EFL teaching community. This document incorporates those changes.
Rationale for a New Curriculum
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, English is without question the major language in the world, with 350,000,000 native speakers, another 350,000,000 second language speakers, and 100,000,000 fluent foreign language speakers. English is now solidly entrenched in Israel as the "first foreign language," as defined in the Policy on Language Education in Israeli Schools (Ministry of Education, 1995, 1996). For Israelis, whatever other languages they may use, English is the customary language for international communication and for overcoming barriers to the flow of information, goods and people across national boundaries. English is the language most generally associated with international trade and tourism, with higher education and research, and with the electronic media. It is the language that, after Hebrew and Arabic, is considered the most valuable asset of a plurilingual Israeli citizen. For all these reasons, it is the foreign language for which there is the strongest local demand. Therefore, it is imperative to aim for the highest achievable standards of excellence for the teaching of English as a Foreign Language in Israeli schools. That is the goal of this document: to set the standards for the teaching of English in Israel, in schools under the supervision of the Ministry of Education.
What is a national curriculum? It is a blueprint for constructing
coursebooks, syllabi, teaching materials and lesson plans. It is a document that represents a consensus of professionals in the field, and will be further refined as teachers and textbook writers add their interpretations.
When, a little over a decade ago, the previous curriculum (Ministry of Education, 1988) was written, it was still reasonable to assume that the vast majority of Israeli pupils had their earliest contact with English in their fourth or fifth grade classes, and that their main exposure to the language was in school. It was therefore feasible and appropriate to write a curriculum, that inclucded a list of the structural items (grammar and vocabulary) that would provide pupils with a basic control of the language. The circumstances today, and even more so in the foreseeable future, are quite different. More and more pupils have extensive contact with English before beginning formal English instruction, whether through radio, television, computers, family, travel or meeting overseas visitors. Most pupils, at whatever age they start learning English in school, have already learned words and phrases of the language. Any simple listing of items to be taught will therefore be arbitrary and over-rigid.
Influenced by these considerations, the Curriculum Committee explored alternative approaches. The comprehensive discussions that led to the present document began with a two-day meeting of the English Advisory Committee in 1994 at which a list of Proficiency Guidelines was drafted. Organized according to the traditional division of language proficiency into the four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing, these guidelines provided an invaluable map for the revisions of the matriculation examinations (Bagrut), that were published in June 1996. They served also as a starting point for the work of the Curriculum Committee, which began its thorough study chaired at first by Professor Elite Olshtain.
After extensive investigation of curricular models used in other countries, the Committee has devised a model it believes to be best suited to Israeli pupils. It incorporates principles that have been refined in recent efforts by national educational systems to develop higher standards of excellence in foreign language teaching and in other fields. This curriculum not only affirms the national need to set standards in order to equip pupils with the knowledge of English that the modern world demands, but it also serves as the basis for quality education.
As a consequence of our studies, discussions and debates among the committee members and colleagues, we have adopted a framework intended to set out as clearly as possible the goals of the curriculum and to make as explicit as possible the ways in which we believe these goals can be met. We have left to coursebook writers, schools and teachers as much freedom as possible in choosing the methodology; we confidently leave it to them to add the creative imagination that will bring the teaching of English alive.
The goal of this new curriculum is to set standards for four domains of English language learning: social interaction; access to information; presentation; and appreciation of literature and culture, and language. According to this curriculum, by the end of twelfth grade, pupils should be able to:
interact effectively in a variety of situations
obtain and make use of information from a variety of sources and media
present information in an organized manner
appreciate literature and other cultures and the nature of language
Organization of the Curriculum
The first section lists the principles that underlie language learning; language teaching; the choice of materials, topics, and tasks; and assessment in the classroom. The second section defines the standard for each domain, describes levels of progression and specifies benchmarks and criteria. The third section deals with issues concerning pupil diversity and recommendations to schools for implementing the curriculum.
Description of Terms
The principles have been drawn from current research in the fields of foreign language learning, education, assessment, cognitive
psychology and curriculum development. These principles focus on language learning; language teaching; choice of material, topics and tasks; and assessment. The implementation of these principles will create an effective and efficient language learning environment that fosters pupil development and achievement.
Domains are areas of language ability and knowledge. In this curriculum, language learning and teaching are divided into four domains: social interaction; access to information; presentation; and appreciation of literature and culture, and language. This classification is different from the one based on the four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing that has for many years been used to organize foreign language learning in Israel. Changing from skills to domains allows us to characterize more clearly the goals and levels that we believe have become the basis of the curriculum for English teaching in Israel. The four domains are viewed as a tapestry of interwoven areas of language learning; that is, the four domains are interrelated and do not operate in isolation.
The concept of social interaction was added to the curriculum some twenty years ago when the English Advisory Committee recognized that English is a language for communication. The domain of social interaction aims to produce graduates who can conduct conversations and informal electronic and written communication with other speakers of English wherever they live and whatever their native language. It does not take on the goal of producing near-native speakers of English, but rather speakers of Hebrew, Arabic or other languages who can function comfortably in English whenever it is appropriate.
The domain of access to information focuses on the ability of pupils to obtain and make use of information. Access to information may be through a spoken medium such as radio or a lecture, or a written medium like a book or an article, or a combined medium like television or computers. Here, the standard at its highest level aims to prepare pupils for the demands of tertiary education in Israel.
The domain of presentation focuses on the ability of pupils to present information and ideas in speech and in writing in an organized fashion. Giving pupils opportunities to express themselves serves as a means for language development.
The domain of appreciation consists of two components: literature and culture, and language. These components are intertwined and the learning of one contributes to and enhances the learning of the other. The focus of this domain is not only to foster appreciation of literature and culture, but also to enhance pupils' language development.
The domain for appreciation of literature and culture addresses the importance of fostering understanding and developing sensitivity to people of various cultural backgrounds. It recognizes that literature written in English is no longer the sole possession of one or two nations, but is shared by a great number of first and second language speakers throughout the world. This broadens the freedom for coursebook writers and teachers to choose the specific works to be read in class. It also recognizes that culture includes a variety of products such as theater, music, film, traditions and symbols.
The domain of appreciation of language is based on the principle that learning a new language provides an ideal opportunity to become aware of the nature of language, how languages are structured and the differences between languages. As they do this, pupils develop their language use as well as gain further insight into the nature of their mother tongue.
Standards have been set for the four domains of language learning. They define a cumulative body of knowledge and set of competencies for each domain.
Levels of Progression
The levels of progression describe the knowledge and abilities that pupils are expected to achieve in each domain. The foundation level is usually achieved by the end of sixth grade; the intermediate level by the end of ninth grade; and the proficiency level by the end of twelfth grade. At each level, it is assumed that pupils have mastered the benchmarks of lower levels. Not all pupils, however, will reach each level at the same time. Section Three, Issues, deals with those pupils for whom levels are achieved at varying points of time.
Benchmarks are indicators of progress within each domain. These benchmarks, which are also divided into three levels, are cumulative and interrelated, but not exhaustive.
For each of the four domains, criteria are described for pupil performance and/or choice of materials. The criteria are mapped on a continuum that indicates the progression from the foundation level to the
proficiency level. A graphic representation of the criteria for each domain is presented after the list of benchmarks.