Thursday, August 21, 2008

Technion Embraces Language of Business World, Makes MBA Program English Only


If this program was for anything else, I would be objecting . . . but business writes its own rules, and if the international language of business is English, the international language of business is English, period.

I think this is great for Jewish Americans too. Finally, we can get our MBA in Israel. Maybe this will lead to an increase of American Businessmen and women making aliyah to Israel! Let's hope so.

Last update - 11:06 21/08/2008
Eyeing global market, Technion makes its MBA English-only
By Ofri Ilani

In 1912, when the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology was established, it was a small technical school known as the Technicom and financed mainly by donations from a German-Jewish aid organization. But not only was it the first Jewish institute of higher education in pre-state Israel, it also proved to be a critical milestone in the revival of the Hebrew language.

Because German was then the dominant language of the scientific world, and all textbooks were written in German, the institute's backers demanded that most subjects at both the institute and the affiliated high school be taught in German. This decision caused the outbreak of the "language war" - a dramatic fight that convulsed the pre-state Jewish community of that time. Students at Hebrew schools appealed to the Technion's administration and the World Zionist Organization, declaring: "The language of the Technicom can and should be the Hebrew language." After strikes and demonstrations, the matter was decided, and throughout the ensuing 94 years, Hebrew has been the language of instruction in all Technion departments - and, as a result, in other Jewish institutions of higher education in Israel as well.

In the coming academic year, however, this situation will change: For the first time in its history, the Technion has decided to make English the language of instruction in one of its degree programs. Specifically, the master's program in business administration will now be taught completely in English.

"The intention is to switch completely to using English - in the classroom, course material, drills, seminars, slides, documents, everything," explained Prof. Boaz Golany, dean of the Technion's faculty of industrial engineering and management. "We reached the conclusion that if we continued to train our students by teaching in Hebrew, we would be placing them in an inferior starting position, given the conditions of the global competition."

The Technion's precedent-setting decision is the first harbinger of a broader process: the globalization of Israel's higher education system. Until now, universities and colleges in Israel have appealed mainly to Israeli students. But the development of a global market for degrees in profitable professions is prompting them to try to lure foreign students as well.

There are clear financial reasons for this decision. In addition, however, Israeli universities are interested in improving their rankings in international ratings of institutes of higher education, led by the Times Higher Education Supplement. These ratings accord great weight to international programs and the presence of foreign students.

There is also a third consideration: Local universities want to train Israeli students to integrate into the global market, in order not to lose them to foreign institutions.

But not everyone is pleased by the arrival of English as a language of instruction in Israeli universities.

"If the Technion is thinking of conducting English-language studies for Israeli students, that is very serious," said Prof. Moshe Bar Asher, the president of the Hebrew Language Academy. "It's especially serious at the Technion, where the language war was won. The revival of the Hebrew language succeeded the moment the universities decided to teach science in Hebrew."

Promotion at Israeli universities has depended for years on publishing articles in journals abroad - mostly in English. But recently, the use of English has gone beyond journal publications. Many lecturers, primarily in the exact sciences and engineering, now encourage students to submit their master's and doctoral theses in English.

According to Bar Asher, "the universities have to be connected to society. It is reasonable for conferences attended by foreign lecturers to be conducted in English - but English-language instruction is a serious development. It sounds as if they want to prepare a corps of elite students who will leave the country for foreign destinations."

"We are aware of our rich history, and of the fact that the language war took place here," responded Golany. "We are the last to absolve ourselves of the Zionist goals for which the Technion was established. But you have to look reality in the face, and we have to adapt ourselves to changing circumstances."

Golany noted that the Technion is following in the footsteps of institutions in other countries around the world. "Even countries much larger than us, such as India and China, have reached the conclusion that the international language of business is English," he said. "Leading universities there, as well as a growing number of universities in Europe, have switched to teaching business administration programs in English, out of recognition of the fact that students who do not speak fluent English find themselves in a significantly worse position in the global competition of the modern business world."

"We are entering an era of the globalization of higher education," added Prof. Arnon Bentur, dean of the Technion's faculty of civil and environmental engineering. "Everyone wants the best students in the world to study at his campus. Israeli universities must prepare to enter this game."

Thus in addition to the MBA program, which will be taught exclusively in English, the Technion is now setting up an international engineering program, aimed primarily at foreign students, that will operate alongside the Hebrew-language program. "We want to bring students here from all over the world - not just Jewish students, who were Israel's market in the past, but also students from developing economies: China, India, Kazakhstan, Korea and the like," Bentur said.

The Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya has been operating a large international school for several years already, and it is expected to expand again next year.

According to Ariel Geva, director of the Technion's international school, there are currently 2.5 million students studying outside their native countries, and by 2025, this number is expected to triple. "Currently, Chinese and Indians still don't consider Israel as a place to come for a degree," he said. "Our goal is for the Technion to enter the global market for higher education."

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