Shmuel Abuav
Shmuel AbuavYonatan Zendel/Flash90

The director of Israel’s Ministry of Education played up the importance for Israeli students of becoming proficient in English, warning that graduates who failed to develop English language skills in school would be effectively “handicapped” in today’s economy.

In a letter to the ministry’s English teachers, Education Ministry Director Shmuel Abuav compared the lack of English skills among graduates to a physical disability.

“As English teachers, I’m sure that you understand as well as I do just how important your work is.”

“You know that a graduate who doesn’t know English is a crippled graduate, and handicapped. He is a graduate whom we have failed in our most basic duty.”

According to a report released by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics in October of last year, 38% of Israelis ages 16 to 65 say they lack basic English skills like speaking, reading, or writing. Thirteen percent say they do not know any English whatsoever.

Twenty-nine percent of Israelis ages 16-65 say they either cannot speak English, or have an extremely low level of spoken English. A further 20% say their English speaking skills are average, while 23% say they speak English well, and 28% rated their English skills as being very good.