The ORT system’s international standing is the highest in its history, World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer told a meeting of the organisation’s top professionals in Buenos Aires this week.
Mr Singer told the opening of the annual National Directors Forum (NDF) that, as the representative of the organisation globally he was often meeting with top authorities.
“I want to convey the message that the appreciation that the ORT system worldwide receives today from governments, international organisations and private donors is probably the highest this organisation has enjoyed in 131 years. And all the credit goes to the people sitting in this room who run the day-to-day operations of our organisation in different countries.”
The ceremony also marked the opening of the Terry and Jean de Gunzburg Jewish Education Seminar, which ensures that the benefits of ICT tools and resources are enjoyed by Jewish Studies teachers. The Seminar attracted 28 educators from across Latin America and lectures by, among others, Reuven Werber, Portal Content Editor at Mofet International, a consortium of Israeli colleges which specialises in research, curriculum and programme development for teacher educators. The NDF brought together top management from Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Cuba, United States, France, Israel, Russia, South Africa, Ukraine, Uruguay, India, Mexico and Argentina to share expertise and experiences related to educational planning issues and corporate strategies.
It was the first time in its 13-year history that the NDF’s seminars, presentations and tours had been held at the campuses of ORT Argentina’s highly respected high school, a tribute, Mr Singer said, to the host organisation’s achievements.
“It was also the first time many of our National Directors have visited the school,” Mr Singer said towards the end of the Forum. “From a pedagogical point of view, it was a unique opportunity for them to see what’s going on here – collaborative learning, creative thinking… all the things we believe in. It’s been an outstanding experience to see the realisation of the ORT educational vision, the excellence of the students and of the daily life of the school community.”
The NDF was sponsored by the Honorary Chair of World ORT’s Board of Representatives, Bob Sill, and his wife Eileen. Did he feel it was money well spent
“Oh my God, yes!” Mr Sill said. “Coming here and seeing what ORT is doing for these young people is fantastic; it’s mind blowing. The children are learning fabulous skills that are going to be so helpful for them their whole lives. The kids and the teachers that I’ve met have been phenomenal. If an ORT education was offered in every school in the world we would not have the problems we now have. This education is far superior to what we have in the United States.”
Among the guest speakers at the NDF was Ezequiel Glinsky. Mr Glinsky’s graduated from ORT Argentina in 1995 and is now Director of the Server and Tools Business Unit in Microsoft Argentina and Uruguay. He presented Microsoft’s vision of the present and future of technology.
The other guest speakers were clinical and educational psychologist Professor Roberto Balaguer Prestes, who discussed the way society shapes technological tools and how it is, in turn, shaped by them, and Senior Manager for Policy Communications at Google Latin America Daniel Helft, who examined trends on the internet. And Argentina’s Vice Minister of Education, Maria Ines Volmer, gave a special briefing.
The schedule was packed with presentations by top ORT professionals, from an overview of the Teaching and Learning Resource Centre (CREA) at ORT Argentina’s Virtual Campus, to an update of developments at CIM-ORT, one year after it became Mexico’s first ORT-affiliated high school, and a look at ORT Chile’s latest collaboration with the Coca-Cola Foundation providing innovation and management training for the sustainable development of small- and medium-sized enterprises.
Among other presenters were ORT Russia Director Dr Sergey Gorinskiy and the World ORT Representative in the CIS and Baltic States, David Benish, who shared with colleagues how their regional organisations had overcome various educational challenges and discussed some of their non-school programmes as well as the benefits of cooperating with HP and Microsoft.
The feedback from national directors has been glowing.
Marcelo Lewkow, from ORT Chile, said it had been a “great gathering” which showed that ORT Argentina had a lot to offer the network globally.
Vanessa Cholat, from ORT Switzerland, thanked ORT Argentina and World ORT for what had been an “amazing” forum.
“It is so important to stay connected with other national directors and to be able to share our experience and skills. It helps us to feel even more a part of the ORT family.”
And ORT India’s Benjamin Isaac spoke for many when he said: “It was a great learning experience. We have seen how other people solve problems they have faced in education management and are returning home with ideas to solve our own issues. And it was a great motivation to see the way ORT Argentina is managed; their success shows in the attitudes, knowledge and skills of the students who are very confident in the face of future challenges.”
ORT Argentina’s Executive Director, Dr Adrian Moscovich, concluded: “This annual forum is a very important component of the regular connections between us.”
Many of the presentations were webcast live via ORT Argentina’s Virtual Campus, one example of the technological tools which World ORT’s members habitually use to communicate with each other quickly, easily and cheaply throughout the year – the “regular connections” mentioned by Dr Mosocovich.
However, there is no substitute for a face-to-face meeting to strengthen the ties that bind this disparate organisation into a powerful force for social progress.
“Would you prefer to speak to your brother by Skype or in person ” asked World ORT Chief Programme Officer Vladimir Dribinskiy. “We’re like a family and it is important for us to have direct meetings to share expertise and experience and discuss the way forward, of fine tuning the balance between Jewish, general and technology education.”