25 February 2009 National ORTs pave the way for greater multilateralism The creation of a new generation of specially trained school principals and other top professionals for ORT operations around the world is a step closer following discussions at the National Directors Forum in Mexico last week. Increased sharing of pedagogical resources between ORT national organisations and the setting up of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programmes for ORT’s top level professionals has long been a goal of World ORT but cultural, linguistic, legal and other diversities have proven difficult to bridge. However, in recent years, increased bilateral links between national ORT organisations indicate that ways are being found to identify the commonalities necessary to build a multilateral approach. ‘We have seen a cooperation agreement signed between ORT Strasbourg and ORT Moscow and the fruitful sharing of expertise between ORT organisations in Latin America,’ said Vladimir Dribinskiy, Head of World ORT’s Education and Technology Department. ‘The initiative which has come from the national organisations can now be taken forward by World ORT, fulfilling our role as an integrator.’ Following the green light given by the Board of Trustees at its Mexico meeting just days earlier, the National Directors Forum discussed practical steps on the design of a pilot educational leadership development programme, itself an initiative of ORT France’s Past President, Marcel Benichou. ‘The target group for this programme will be teachers in senior roles who have the capacity and potential for top school leadership positions,’ Mr Dribinskiy said. ‘Good leaders don’t just ‘happen’; they are made. They have to combine their natural abilities with experience and training. The need is great. Throughout the ORT network a number of head teachers are near retirement and a new generation of head teachers has to be nurtured.’ The National Directors adopted a two-stage approach to the programme’s development: their nomination of suitable candidates who would attend local universities to undertake Masters level courses assessed and approved by a World ORT committee; and the provision of enrichment seminars in matters specific to ORT and Jewish education by World ORT in conjunction with leading international educational institutions. ‘National Directors are key to the success of the programme,’ Mr Dribinskiy said. ‘They will be involved in all stages: in the selection of course providers and of participants, in monitoring the progress of their candidates and as the graduates take their places in the schools.’ Another challenge discussed at the National Directors Forum was to increase sharing of pedagogical programmes and materials, including text books and software, which are produced by one ORT national organisation with other ORT national organisations. It was decided that a World ORT committee would facilitate the sharing of such material and so create a worldwide educational portfolio. ORT Argentina suggested that this internal process could provide commercial opportunities by extending it to the non-ORT educational sector. ‘Our pedagogical know-how is a valuable asset,’ Mr Dribinskiy said. ‘In consolidating and integrating that know-how internally we will examine how to market it and make it available for potential customers.’ The day-long meeting also featured a session on strategic fundraising presented by Michael Ostroff, President of the Ostroff Group for Development, Fundraising, Strategic Planning and Marketing for Non-profit Organisations. The session was divided into workshops on solicitation technique, marketing ORT, preparing the case for fundraising and how to cultivate donors. Unusually, the Forum featured a strong academic component thanks to its merger with the Moshinsky Seminar. The Seminar featured a lecture on the global economic crisis’s effect on education by the General Director of the University of Santander, Dr Arturo Cherbowski; an examination of the educational imperatives of nano-culture by Dr Boris Berenfeld, Director of the International Centre of the Concord Consortium in Boston; a discussion on how to strengthen the learning of scientific subjects by Dr Alejandro Frank, of the Institute of Nuclear Sciences at the National Autonomous University of Mexico; a survey of ORT Argentina’s Virtual Campus by Luis Perez, Head of ORT Argentina’s International Liaison Department, and of educational projects and enterprise philanthropy by ORT Chile National Director Marcelo Lewkow; a description of World ORT’s vision of science and technology education by Dr Yakov Ronkin, World ORT’s Research and Development Coordinator; and a lecture on new methods of interactive technology as a catalyst to transform education by Gordon Dryden. For Rony Kalinsky, the Head of World ORT’s Representative Office in Israel, it was the first experience at a National Directors Forum and he found it very useful in deepening his knowledge of, and appreciation for, ORT’s role in the Diaspora. ‘What I’ve learned has reinforced my understanding that World ORT is needed not only in Israel, although Israel is at the heart of the Jewish nation, but also in other countries some of which, without World ORT, would have no Jewish education at all,’ Mr Kalinsky said. He also appreciated being able to meet fellow national directors saying he would like to see the utilisation of a new wave of cheaper videoconferencing tools to strengthen the relationships forged in Mexico City.