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Saturday, December 20, 2014

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TAV working to help chassidic students go to college

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Abraham Boyarsky

MONTREAL — TAV College is introducing a program intended to enhance job prospects, in particular for students who have attended chassidic schools.

TAV, a private CEGEP, is offering a make-up program in basic science and mathematics next semester. It will provide the prerequisites necessary for admission to pre-university pure and applied science or health sciences at other CEGEPs or possibly universities elsewhere.

TAV currently does not have a pre-university (or Diplôme d’études collégiales – DEC) science program, but it is working toward establishing one, said academic co-ordinator Eli Meroz.

TAV founder Abraham Boyarsky, a Concordia University mathematics professor and Lubavitch community member, said the “desultory education” provided in many chassidic schools, especially those for boys, is holding its students back.

“I see it all the time,” he said. “They are unable to go further, and end up in menial jobs or on welfare.”

Candidates for the TAV program must have a high school diploma, Meroz said, conceding that this may disqualify some coming out of the yeshivot.

Meroz, who taught for 15 years at the Belz Community School, acknowledged that there are “gaps” in the curriculum at some chassidic schools. “There are varying degrees of compliance [with the compulsory provincial curriculum]. These gaps need to be filled.”

The Ministry of Education-approved program will consist of high school-level courses that have a college number and earn college credit. The program is intense – what would be a yearlong course in high school will be covered in 15 weeks, Meroz said.

Students are then expected to spend more than a year in total catching up.

These credits, however, do not count toward a DEC, the certificate issued upon successful completion of a two-year pre-university program. Students may take DEC credit courses, such as English or the humanities, at the same time, thereby reducing their load the following year, Meroz said.

He believes the make-up program could benefit students coming out of other high schools as well.

Meroz pointed out that, as early as Grade 9, Quebec students are being “streamed” into science or non-science options in their senior high school years. Some later regret that lack of science, he said.

He also noted that getting into CEGEP is no longer automatic – demand is outstripping classroom space, especially in the pre-university programs.

Many CEGEPs are accepting those with high school averages of at least 70.

The new TAV program is suitable for students who took science and math and want to upgrade their high school results, he said.

The program, like TAV itself, is open to anyone and will be taught in co-ed classes. “We may be private [for the past two years], but we are still funded by the Ministry of Education. We cannot discriminate,” he said.

Historically, haredi Jews have maintained that they could not attend mixed classes, and when TAV (originally called the Torah and Vocational College) opened more than 25 years ago, men and women were segregated. Today, about half of its more than 500 students are Jewish, not all of them Orthodox.

Meroz said that attitude is changing, as the chassidic communities come to realize that a secular education is essential for their viability.

“There is a demand for this type of program… Still, we understand this will not be for everybody.”

Orthodox Jews are comfortable at TAV because no classes are held on Shabbat or Jewish holidays, for example.

At the end of 2009, then-education minister Michelle Courchesne advised TAV that its 25-year partnership with a public CEGEP, Collège Marie-Victorin, through which it received government funding, was being terminated.

TAV protested the abrupt decision taken on grounds that were never made entirely clear, but Meroz said TAV’s going independent has worked out well. “We have no regrets, we are now the masters of our own school, we can adapt to the needs of our students and do so quickly, and all of the administrators and services are on site.”

TAV is located in Côte des Neiges, on Décarie Boulevard.

The current enrolment includes about 100 Marie-Victorin students who are completing three-year programs this year at TAV. Letting them finish their education there was part of the understanding when the partnership was severed, Meroz said.

TAV is now building a laboratory for the planned pre-university science program. “We are investing quite a lot, it will take up half a floor,” Meroz said.

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