04 March 2009 More students than ever at ORT Brazil The ORT Technical High School in Rio de Janeiro has enrolled the highest number of students ever in its 65-year history, a sign of its burgeoning reputation for a top quality education. The school now has 360 students, a 20 per cent increase on last year and only 40 places short of its current capacity. The surge in demand for an ORT education comes less than a year after the school was ranked 13th of the 18,000 schools in the county by the Ministry of Education, making it the top technical school and highest ranked Jewish school in Brazil. ‘I think we’re the only non-state school in Rio de Janeiro which is growing,’ said ORT Brazil National Director Hugo Malajovich. ‘People want to put their children here because they have studied the different schools and they have seen media reports about our being one of the best schools in the country and so they know their kids will benefit. Our reputation is not due to marketing, it is a consequence of quality. This is what we’ve been fighting to achieve for 30 years and now we’re seeing the results.’ This long term commitment to raising standards has enjoyed a fillip thanks to ‘the big investment made in the school by the Board of ORT Brazil and the major support provided by World ORT over the past five to 10 years in terms of a recovery plan, more money for scholarships and for updating equipment, and most recently through the Latin America Campaign’ which is enabling the urgent upgrading of the school’s laboratories. The situation is particularly remarkable given that in such a perilous economic climate the demand for non-state education would be expected to slow, if not fall as fewer families can afford school fees. ‘Also, they are afraid to come to a philanthropic school like us – we have 70 per cent of our students on scholarships – because they are not sure that the school will be able to maintain financial support for eligible students,’ Mr Malajovich added. The school has more applications for scholarships than it has money to award them; but with ever higher standards, Mr Malajovich is hopeful that the school will continue to grow and in so doing attain a critical mass by which it will be able to become self-funding. And there is plenty of evidence to argue that the virtuous circle of higher standards, better reputation and increased enrolment will continue. ‘Every single one of our students who applied for a university place in December was accepted – a 100 per cent success rate,’ Mr Malajovich said, adding that the thousands of candidates sitting the entrance exams meant there were on average more than 10 students competing for each university place. Notable among them were Andre Sterenberg Frankenthal and Tiago Domingues (pictured), both of whom participated in last year’s Raya Cowan World ORT International Summer School at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. Andre, who majored in electronics at ORT, sat entrance exams for four universities: he came first overall among applicants for the Federal Centre for Technological Education, first in Information Technology for the University of Rio de Janeiro, second in Computer Sciences for Fluminense Federal University, and third in Electrical Engineering at Rio de Janeiro State University. Tiago, who majored in biotechnology at ORT, came first in Biology for Rio de Janeiro State University and first in Pharmacy for Fluminense Federal University. No other school in Brazil has the international connections that give students opportunities like Andre and Tiago enjoyed at the Weizmann Institute. But there are yet more advantages to an ORT education, as Mr Malajovich explained. ‘Kids graduate from our school with technical qualifications which allow them to work in the field of their choice. So they can pursue their university studies and also have a job which will not only provide them with an income but also start them off on their career. These qualifications also help our alumni successfully apply for scholarships available at major universities for students who excel in their study of science and technology.’ The teachers, the Board and everyone else associated with the ORT Technical High School are delighted with its success – not least Mr Malajovich himself, who has dedicated half his life to this end. ‘There is great satisfaction that, despite all the difficulties of having to fight for more money and look for donations, we have been able to produce good results,’ he said.