Friday, April 8, 2016

Holy academic scheduling

I have been an English lecturer at Ort Braude for over 25 years.  One aspect of academic life in Israel that is unique to the country and very peculiar is the schedule of non-classes in the second semester. 

To explain, as in the United States, each semester has 14 weeks. An additional factor is that the Jewish calendar, which determines the actual date of the religious holidays, is based on the moon, which means that an extra month, Adar B, is frequently added to keep it in line with the solar year. This means that their dates vary from year to year but within a certain range.

The first semester begins after Sukkot. In practice, that means any time from the end of September to latter part of October. Once the semester begins, it lasts 14 consecutive weeks with no holidays except for maybe one day for Hanukah (some institutions give more).

Alas, the second semester is a matter of occasional study between days off.  To illustrate, this year, it began on March 6.  Students got one day off for Purim on March 24, two and half weeks later. They actually have to study another almost four weeks until Pesach, which lasts from April 22-29. Immediately after readjusting to academic life for not even a week, they get a late afternoon off, on May 4, for Holocaust Memorial Day. Not to worry, one week later, there are no classes, from the late afternoon on May 10th for Memorial Day straight through to the 12th, for Independence Day.  This break is followed by two actual weeks of study, until, no kidding, Students Day, from noon of May 25th to noon of the 26th. By this time, even the students want to get some learning in. There is a limit on how much you can eat. Yet, on June 12, the students can catch up on homework on Shavuot. There are no more holidays or days off until June 20th, the end of the semester, unless they are sick or called up for reserve duty.  

I should clarify that the plethora of holidays is not the fault of the management and is applicable all over the country.  It should be noted, to nobody’s surprise, that the vast majority students appreciate the extra time, especially at an engineering college.

If you are wondering how the faculty can actually teach anything, the management has calculated 14 full weeks of study here. It is undoubtedly true but who can count with so many holes?

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