An ORT education becomes an attractive option for Mexicans


As Jewish children in Mexico flock to the capital city’s CIM ORT school, ORT Mexico is preparing to extend its activities into university-level business education.

As it enters its second academic year affiliated to World ORT, the CIM-ORT school has taken on an extra 200 students “モ an astonishing surge for a school which now serves 650 children.

ORT Mexico also expects its University Centre in Advanced Management and Business Development to rapidly kick start its enrolment.

Drawing on the expertise of ORT colleagues internationally “モ particularly at ORT Uruguay University, which is recognised as among the top five business schools in the Mercosur region, ORT Argentina, and Bramson ORT College in New York “モ the new ORT University Centre will initially provide BAs in Business Creation and Development, International Trade and Globalisation, and Marketing 2.0 and Advertising, and an MA in Advanced Business Management. “We are moving away from the North American model of business schools, which are seen by many as too academic, by offering courses which are intellectually challenging but also practical. We will be working with the business world to give our students real hands-on experience. This will be a university for entrepreneurs,”? said the Chair of World ORT’s Board of Trustees and initiator of the project, Mauricio Merikanskas.

Asset sales and a personal investment by Mr Merikanskas, among others, mean the Centre will open on a site at the CIM-ORT school in September 2012.

“We expect to start with between 60 and 100 students but I believe we will have 300 full-time students within three years as well as more taking short courses,”? said Mexico City-based Mr Merikanskas, a Fulbright scholar whose working life has encompassed university lecturing and successful entrepreneurship. “We are raising another $2 million so that we will be able to expand in our own premises.”?

Scholarships will be available for Jewish students in need but the integration of classroom teaching with on-line courses means that the Centre will be widely affordable.

“The ORT University Centre will be unique in Mexico,”? Mr Merikanskas said. “Not only will it have the highest academic level, with a first-class faculty, but it will also offer students flexibility with cutting-edge pedagogical models and prospects for international exchanges.”?

Meanwhile, the Centre’s initial host, CIM-ORT, is celebrating the results of the new dynamism and direction introduced by its Board, chaired by Dan Ostrosky, ORT Mexico, under the lay and professional leadership of Arturo Merikanskas and Jimmy Salinas, and its Israeli principal, Kalya Hilu, which have made the school an increasingly attractive option for the community’s children: half the new intake were absorbed from the closure of one of the eight schools serving a Jewish community of just 40,000.

Sweeping reforms over the past year have included the changing of nearly a third of the teachers, and the fundamental re-organisation of the school’s kindergarten, primary, middle and high components into a coherent, unified whole.

“We have really shaken it up. Everyone says it’s a very different school,”? said Ms Hilu, who on taking up the post at CIM-ORT declared she would do her utmost to make it the best school of its kind in the country.

Before coming to CIM-ORT in 2010, Ms Hilu was principal at the Western Galilee High School “モ one of more than 30 campuses now supported by World ORT through its Kadima Mada programme “モ which she transformed from a failing institution where fewer than half the students matriculated to one which boasted an 80 per cent pass rate in the final exams and a waiting list to get in.

Now, having rationalised and harmonised CIM-ORT’s structure, the school is set to focus on the next level “モ modifying the way its teachers and students approach the educational process.

“We want to prepare children for the 21st century but one of the big problems for schools around the world is that they haven’t changed a lot “モ when you come to a class you still see the teacher at the board and the children sitting passively listening,” she said.

“But we’re experiencing a communication revolution. Children can get most of the knowledge themselves; they don’t depend on teacher the way they used to. But they don’t have the experience and skills to take this knowledge and do something creative with it and it is this that we need to teach them. This requires a big change in the minds of the teachers to become more like facilitators.”

Another change is the introduction of children learning in teams, working on projects together so that each student contributes their own strengths.

The school’s affiliation with ORT has provided the impetus for change and given teachers access to training seminars and the technological tools which make the pedagogical developments possible.

And underpinning it all is the creation of an environment in which the children feel secure and motivated to succeed in much the same way as their peers at Western Galilee were made to feel.

As Ms Hilu said when she joined CIM-ORT last year: “Education is the language of love and care and that doesn’t change from country to country.”