fall 2013

Project 100

An OUI Initiative Fulfills a National Priority

A high priority on Israel's agenda is the integration of Arab high school graduates in higher education. However, with a plethora of academic and lingual obstacles facing Arab students, is this priority within our reach? The Open University of Israel thinks so. That's why the Council for Higher Education has embraced OUI's Project 100, which is adapting higher education services to help Arab students earn degrees.

Over the years, the Open University of Israel has reached out to minority sectors to help them earn degrees. Among them have been Arabs. Now with a cooperative venture between the Open University of Israel and the Committee for Planning and Budget of the Council for Higher Education, 100 students from the Arab sector have been chosen to start the path to higher education under the aegis of OUI.

The name of this cooperative venture is Project 100. Project 100 is a pilot project carefully developed by OUI to fully integrate Arab-speaking students within higher education by bridging the educational gaps. And the Council for Higher Education in Israel is betting that this initiative is the one that will be a pathbreaker.

A 'Soft Landing'

This year some 6,400 Arab-speaking students will be studying at the Open University of Israel. Yet, while this is of the highest percentages in the country, it is far behind where the University aims to be and what the Government is hoping the nationwide university system can achieve.

Prof. Hagit Messer-Yaron, outgoing President of the Open University of Israel explains "Project 100 plays a seminal strategic role in enabling us to achieve our objective of increasing the number of Arab-speaking students at the University."

But, the end result is not just about increasing the number of Arab-speaking students at the University or the number of earned degrees. Prof. Messer-Yaron explains the long-range objective "…this is all part of our understanding that academic studies are a crucial factor influencing the extent to which one can integrate into the workforce. Our goal is not just to open up the gates of academic studies to Arab-speaking students, but also to envelop them in a supportive environment at the outset that will enable them to eventually earn a degree. That's the goal of Project 100."

Project 100 is designed as a 'soft landing' for Arab-speaking students, offering them a basket of support services. It begins with courses taught in Arabic. In the first semester of this year, the University offered 22 courses, and in the second semester the number of courses will more than double. The University has also translated textbooks and study videos into Arabic, and has created a supportive environment in every way. Students may submit papers and homework in Arabic, and take exams in Arabic. Students can also take advantage of instructional lessons in Arabic and participate in workshops to strengthen their Hebrew language as well as study skills.

Yael Aran, Directorn of the Open University Jerusalem campus and Director of Project 100, explains why there is so much emphasis on having materials and face-to-face instruction available in Arabic "In spite of the fact that Arab-speaking students have learned Hebrew in school, they do not have a sufficient command of the language to succeed in the Hebrew-speaking academic environment." So, they are disadvantaged from the start.

Project 100's goal is to help level out their playing field.

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