Panama’s Isaac Rabin School has formally affiliated to World ORT “ﾓ the first Jewish school in the country to do so. President of the school board, Alan Perelis, signed an affiliated agreement with World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer during the latter’s visit to Panama City.
ORT Panama President Samuel Bern, who sits on the board, said the school’s affiliation was part of its strategy to raise the profile of science, technology and maths, a move which would position students to exploit new opportunities opening up in the country’s booming economy.
“Services, commerce and business make up most of our economy and traditionally many children in the community join their father’s business; we tend to work in the professions, banking and business administration. But the lack of local technological know-how has meant that Panamanian businesses have had to bring in people from overseas,”? Mr Bern said.
The Isaac Rabin School is only 13 years old but is already among the top five schools in the country with a strong liberal arts tradition. Five years ago, with World ORT’s support, it opened a state-of-the-art science laboratory bursting with computerised data loggers and other equipment.
The laboratory follows the model of the TAVEC project through which ORT Chile has installed dozens of similar facilities at public schools throughout Chile with the support of the Coca Cola Foundation. ORT Chile has been providing the Isaac Rabin School with teacher training and technical assistance.
“Since we’ve had the lab more and more students are choosing physics, maths and technology. We now want to introduce an annual science week that would involve the entire school community, including parents. We have already been very successful in doing that for the arts and humanities and the Jewish and Zionist components. I am confident that we will build our capacity in science and technology now that we are affiliated with World ORT. This is just the beginning,”? Mr Bern said.
His confidence is well founded: the affiliation agreement means that Isaac Rabin School’s staff can now access World ORT’s international professional development seminars and programs and tap into the experience and expertise of peers in dozens of countries; its principal, Itzel Sayavedra, is already due to visit World ORT operations during a visit to Israel later this month and to spend a week at ORT Argentina later in the year. Students are eligible for international exchange programs and activities such as World ORT’s English summer school in London and iJET Challenge Jewish history project. World ORT also provides support and consultancy in the introduction of educational technology as well as guidance on raising standards, networking and twinning opportunities and other benefits.
The Panamanian economy is enjoying 11 per cent growth as the country nears the end of a seven-year, $5.3 billion expansion project for the Panama Canal and embarks on other major infrastructure programs.
“The situation in Panama is proving attractive for Jewish families escaping difficult economic and political environments elsewhere in Latin America,”? said World ORT’s representative in the region, Isidoro Gorodischer. “Immigration is helping the local Jewish community to grow and enrolment at the Isaac Rabin School is nearing the maximum capacity of 350. We look forward to supporting the school’s growth and helping it to realise its educational aspirations.”?
For Mr Singer, the Panama visit was the last stop in a whistle-stop tour of ORT operations in Latin America.
“ORT Panama’s leaders are highly devoted to the future of their community and the school superbly reflects their commitment to the level of education there. I am sure that very positive things will result from this new partnership,”? he said.