World ORT has expanded its presence in Latin America after signing an affiliation agreement with the only Jewish school in Costa Rica.
The Instituto Dr Jaim Weizman is a key institution in the Jewish community’s infrastructure in the capital city, San Jose.
Affiliated schools are invited to participate in ORT’s global teacher training programs and international projects for students, and also have the opportunity to benefit from the shared expertise of the ORT network in a range of areas.
The World ORT Board of Trustees approved the affiliation earlier this year and ratified the agreement at our General Assembly in Israel this week.
Dan Green, World ORT Director General and CEO, said: “We are delighted to welcome the Instituto Dr Jaim Weizman to our network and cannot wait to work with the school’s staff and students. In preparing for the affiliation we have already had a great collaborative experience.
“Adding another country to our global family serves as further proof of the strength of the ORT name worldwide and of the success our programs and pedagogical experience offer to educational establishments.
“In the case of Instituto Weizman we have found perfect partners – we share the same vision and ethos and have a mutual goal: exceptional teaching which prepares students for the future, combined with providing strong Jewish values. We are very excited for the opportunities ahead.”
Eyal Richter, President of Instituto Weizman, said: “As parents and members of the school board, it is clear to us that educating in values and the reinforcement of Jewish identity in our children is central for our institution.
“The school is constantly searching for the best tools for our teachers to better prepare them to teach our children. We know they will have to face an increasingly challenging world. It is for this reason that we have pursued our affiliation to World ORT; we know such a global organization will offer teacher training plans, entrepreneurship initiatives, tikkun olam opportunities, robotics competitions, history, and animation, among other areas that will definitely enrich our school life.”
The Instituto Dr Jaim Weizman was established more than 60 years ago. Its mission is to provide academic excellence within a framework of Jewish values, aiming to prepare citizens of the world.
There are currently 225 students across all ages from pre-school to 17 years old – the final year of school education in Costa Rica.
The students benefit from small class sizes – with between 10 and 25 children in each class and only one class per grade.
Members of the Orthodox Jewish community are eligible to attend the school and around 70 percent of Jewish children in the capital are students there. Around 2,000 families belong to the community.
The Instituto Dr Jaim Weizman has a great reputation for its strong academic performance and for preparing students for their future lives. The International Baccalaureate is offered and is highly-regarded for developing critical thinking skills and internationally-recognized competencies.
Teachers are mostly local graduates and they receive professional development opportunities including workshops and mentoring under the leadership of school principal Priscila Alvarado, who was appointed in May 2019.
She said: “For us, as a community of learners, joining the World ORT network means an opportunity to grow. It gives us the possibility to learn from an array of communities around the world that could support us in our efforts to educate our children. It is also an opportunity for us to contribute to the network.”
The school has a spacious campus and underwent major reconstruction of classrooms and laboratories in 2009. The pandemic increased the use of technology in classrooms. There is also a renewed focus on mindfulness and emotional intelligence.
At the elementary school, a trial has taken place with multi-age classes. Teachers were intensively trained and the school is monitoring the success of the innovative approach. It is believed multi-age classes may become more necessary as the country’s Jewish community continues to shrink. Many students go to Israel after graduating and continue their higher education in Europe or the United States.
Parent Andrés Bulgach, a leading advocate of the school joining the ORT network due to the experience of his wife and three brothers – who all graduated from the ORT school in Argentina – said he believed the affiliation would provide Instituto Weizman with “the opportunity to give teachers and students a broader vision than the one we have and know today – it means new tools to work with”.
ORT already has a presence in neighbouring Panama where the Colegio Isaac Rabin has been part of the network for more than a decade. Costa Rica is the latest country in the region to join the ORT family, with school staff and students in Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Panama, Argentina and Brazil regularly taking part in network activities.