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Prof. Ohad Nachtomy

As Israel’s Institute of Technology, the Technion provides training and education for prospective scientists and engineers. The general objective of the Humanities and Arts Department at the Technion is to complement the technical and professional training that constitutes the bulk of the students’ curriculum. Without early liberal arts education (as in the US, for instance), the risk of narrow-minded professionalism looms large. The humanities and arts program counters this concern by providing a complementary array of courses that would extend the students’ horizons and open their eyes to disciplines, concepts, and skills that expand their professional training.

Our objective, however, is not to provide mere intellectual enrichment; rather, we seek to add essential facets that are missing in the typical engineer’s training. The standard instruction of the sciences results in a purely conceptual picture of science and other professional vocations such as engineering: they are seen as a body of knowledge without a broader conception of the context in which they are embedded: its history, its underlying philosophical assumptions, its goals, and sometimes the rationale for its results as well as the ethical implications of its development.

For example, the very character of contemporary science, as emphasising quantitative and empirically measurable results, cannot be well understood without some background as to how and why modern science emerged in the 17th century as an attempt to replace the quality-oriented science of the Scholastics. Likewise, the present divide in our medical institutions and its training methods, between physiology on the one hand and psychology on the other, cannot be fully grasped without attending to René Descartes’s distinction between bodies (seen as extended things) and minds (seen as thinking things). To take one other example, students of science are often unaware of the fundamental problems that beset the scientific method (e.g., the methods of confirmation, refutation, explanation, and reduction) or the ethical and environmental implications of favoring one method over the other, or of the choice of certain materials or algorithms. Our program seeks to promote such awareness and sensitivity, seen as essential to engineers and scientists.   

In addition, our department has three more missions in contribution to the student’s training and formation: (1) we run instruction programs in English and Foreign Languages for students at all levels; (2) we instruct and manage training in Physical Education; and (3) we provide courses in the Arts (including musical bands and a choir):

English and other Foreign Languages

Acquiring knowledge of English and other foreign languages is sometimes seen as a mere instrumental necessity imposed by the Council of Higher Education. We believe otherwise. A mastery of English is clearly indispensable for any academic training these days. At the same time, the process of learning a foreign language has been a mark of humanistic studies and education ever since the early Academy in ancient Greece. There are good reasons for it. Learning a foreign language goes far beyond the benefits of developing communication skills; it is, we believe, a truly intellectual formation in the sense of creating and mastering new grammatical forms and thereby new and richer ways of thought, speech, and composition. In this deeper sense, the study of a foreign language not only allows one to expand one’s horizons and open up to new cultures and people; it also enhances one’s flexibility of mind, conceptual inventory and creativity.

Physical Education

While this program is called physical education, its many courses serve the development of mental abilities as much as they serve the development of physical ones. Indeed, there is probably no other urgent need for students’ lives than balancing the two. The stressful and intensive course of studies where one normally spends many hours, if not days, in front of one’s screen certainly needs balancing. As the old saying goes, Mens sana in corpore sano, a sound mind in a sound body – physical training is essential for a healthy and balanced life. In emphasizing this, the Technion is making an educational point that should not be missed. In addition, the impressive infrastructure of sport facilities at the Technion should serve as a platform for research in a variety of domains, from movement to health and well-being. It is also important to note an important factor related to these courses: they serve as (the nearly exclusive) meeting place for students from different faculties.

The Arts

An educational curriculum that does not offer courses and instruction in the arts seems to lack something essential. This is perhaps all the more important in an institute that stresses engineering and applied science. Let us not forget that music, theatre, and the fine arts are not meant to serve engineering projects; rather, it is the other way around: engineering projects should serve the arts and let human beings enjoy and celebrate their gift. The arts are among the ends of our society; or, in other words, they are among the reasons for technological developments. If engineering is to serve the arts, it is essential that the arts not be neglected. It is also essential that engineers have the opportunity to enjoy the arts and be able to receive art training at the highest level. Our department provides such opportunities, led by professional artists and musicians.

Prof. Ohad Nachtomy

Head of Humanities and Arts Department

היחידה להוראת עברית:

סטודנטים שאינם בעלי תעודת בגרות ישראלית וסטודנטים שלא נבחנו בעברית בבחינה הפסיכומטרית או שנבחנו ולא קיבלו ציון המקנה פטור,  חייבים ללמוד עברית בהתאם לרמתם. סטודנטים אשר אינם בעלי תעודת בגרות ישראלית, ילמדו גם קורס חובה בנושא תולדות עם ישראל. המטרה היא גם להעניק לסטודנטים את הידע הדרוש בקריאת ספרות מקצועית, וגם לתרום לקליטתם המוצלחת במשק ובחברה בישראל .

היחידה ללימודי אנגלית:

סטודנטים אשר ציונם באנגלית במבחן הפסיכומטרי נמוך מ-134 חייבים ללמוד אנגלית בקורסים המותאמים לרמת ידיעתם בשפה. מגמת הלימוד היא להכשיר את הסטודנטים לקריאת חומר מדעי וטכנולוגי ולשימוש בשפה המקצועית בתחום התמחותם. מקצועות אנגלית ברמה מתקדמת מוצעים כמקצועות בחירה לתואר ראשון.

היחידה לחינוך גופני:

היחידה לחינוך גופני בטכניון אחראית על כלל הנושאים האקדמאים בכל קורסי ונבחרות החינוך גופני והספורט. פעילות זו מתקיימת בקשת רחבה ומגוונת מאוד של יותר משלושים ענפי ספורט שונים בשלוש מסגרות עיקריות:

  1. חינוך גופני חובה (2 סמסטרים, כל קורס בהיקף של נקודה אקדמית אחת).
  2. קורסי חינוך גופני וספורט בחירה (כל קורס בהיקף נקודה אקדמית אחת בסמסטר).
  3. נבחרות הטכניון (כל נבחרת מקנה 1.5 נקודות אקדמיות בסמסטר).

מטרת הפעילות היא לפתח ולטפח את כושרם הגופני של הסטודנטים ולתרום לשמירת בריאותם ואיכות החיים שלהם.

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