Israel gap year could boost university application
A Noam group celebrate passing their Magen David Adom exams
Participants on gap year schemes in Israel could find that their time abroad helps them win a university place.
Students can boost their Ucas tariff points by 70 points – equivalent to an A grade at AS Level – by earning a Certificate of Personal Effectiveness (Cope).
The qualification focuses on personal skills including teamwork, volunteering and learning a foreign language, all of which form part of the gap year schemes of Jewish youth movements.
Candidates are required to submit a project documenting their efforts and are assessed by the Asdan awarding body on six skills.
At present the number of gap year companies offering participants the chance to work on a Cope certificate is limited.
However Barbara Benson, head of curriculum development for Asdan, said there was no reason that Jewish organisations could not apply.
"We look at skills rather than the vehicle for them so theoretically everything could fit in," she said.
"The full qualification requires 150 hours of activity, during which young people develop skills to a really high level."
Movement workers would need to complete training to qualify, but could feasibly offer the Cope course to participants on gap years from September 2012.
The qualification could even be achieved on a shorter gap year programme, such as the UJIA's new five-month pre-university "Israel Journey,"
Students would typically only achieve the points after they sent off university applications, but Ms Benson said the qualification would be treated like an A level and form part of a conditional offer.
Candidates applying for deferred entry could also inform admissions departments that they were planning to work towards a Cope certificate.
"The idea that it is a simple option is completely false," added Ms Benson. "Things like teaching English abroad or studying Hebrew are all fantastically good for developing skills."
With applications for Jewish gap year programmes down by almost a half this year as students attempt to avoid paying annual fees of up to £9,000, it could be just the boost movements need.
Francesca Wolfe, national director of the Federation of Zionist Youth, said she thought the qualification was a great idea. "We will certainly look into it," she said. "It sounds great. Our programmes are already at that standard."
FZY's year programmes are run jointly with US youth movement Young Judea and participants already earn college credits on the course. "This is a way for the Brits to have the same opportunity," she said.
"We offer all of those things and people wouldn't have to go for that reason, but it's a fantastic that they could.
"It's about time gap years were recognised by academic institutions – if young people want to go and help others and benefit themselves then universities should recognise it."
Another movement, the Zionist Socialist organisation Habonim Dror, is not taking a group to Israel this year because of the fees hike.
"Something like this would be great," said national director Georgie Davis, who added that she would like to find out more.
"This could also make a big difference to parents. Youth movements tell parents the good things participants can get from gap years in Israel and this confirms that it is worthwhile."