A “small group”? of 95 teenagers from ORT Argentina packed into ORT House, London this week to find out more about the organisation which supports the education they love.
In something resembling a family reunion, the students were told how they were the focus of World ORT’s work and assured that “ﾓ “mi casa es tu casa”?-style “ﾓ the door of the organisation’s administrative headquarters was always open to them. “Everything we do is for you, it’s for the students in Argentina, India, Israel”ﾦ wherever we operate. You are the foundation and the future of the Jewish community in Buenos Aires and it is of the utmost importance to us to support you with everything possible for your education,”? said World ORT Acting Director General and CEO Sonia Gomes de Mesquita. “This is ORT House but this is also your house. This is a place that you can come whenever you are in London, not only when you’re a student but when you’ve graduated; you are very welcome to be our guest here.”?
Ms Gomes de Mesquita praised ORT Argentina’s expertise and vision, saying its development of innovative and effective uses of technology in the classroom was a source of pride and inspiration for the global ORT network.
This expertise has earned ORT Argentina a place in the Pedagogy 3.0 consortium of HP’s Catalyst Initiative, an international network of leading educators and educational institutions to explore innovative approaches to science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) education.
ORT Argentina has maintained the cutting edge nature of its on-line “ﾘVirtual Campus’ by providing social space for students to discuss what they are learning and share material with each other and their teachers; teachers use it to publish their own virtual educational material so that it is accessible to students at any time from anywhere in the world. Meanwhile, there has been a steady roll-out of the organisation’s one-Netbook-per-student programme.
The organisation’s strong sense of social responsibility has led it to share its expertise with the wider community: teachers trained by ORT Argentina’s Teaching and Learning Resource Centre (CREA) have been showing their peers at scores of schools in the provinces how to use software which fosters interaction and collaboration between them and their students and to extend the boundaries of the classroom through use of the Internet.
“The spectacular success of this project may be taking Argentina to the threshold of far-reaching social change,”? Ms Gomes de Mesquita said.
She recalled that the Konex Foundation recognised ORT Argentina’s educational excellence by awarding it the Merit Diploma in 2008 for a decade of outstanding performance.
“The Konex Foundation noted that ORT Argentina always provided state-of-the-art solutions to meet the education and training needs of the community and said its principles were oriented towards achieving personal integrity and the constructive and effective integration of students into society. There may never been a more appropriate recipient for such a prestigious award!”?
The students, accompanied by six teachers, are in England for two weeks, studying English in the mornings and spending the rest of each day soaking up the local culture. It is a trip enjoyed and appreciated by all but of special significance to a few.
“This is my first time on an aeroplane and my first time abroad,”? said Alejo Ezequiel, 15, an electronics major. “I’ve always dreamed of studying at ORT and now that I have a scholarship my family can send me there. Every day I appreciate the amazing opportunities that are open to me “ﾓ taking part in the model United Nations in Buenos Aires, competing in the maths Olympiad”ﾦ and I’ve learned to play guitar and bass and to compose music.”?
Mava Azul, also 15 and a scholarship recipient, is a music production major.
“I’ve always wanted to study at ORT because of all the opportunities and activities “ﾓ ORT gives us so many choices in life; it’s the best choice I’ve ever made. Each day, going to school, for me is living! Without the help of donors it wouldn’t have been possible for me to be at ORT,”? she said.
Alejo added: “Being in London is an experience that both us will remember for ever “ﾓ and it’s because of ORT that we can do this.”?
ORT Argentina plays a pivotal role in advancing and sustaining the country’s Jewish community. Intense investment in teacher training in digital technology and crafting innovative new pedagogic material impacts the education and career paths of the next generation.
ORT Argentina includes two educational campuses that cover 37,000 square meters and a new science and technology centre, made possible with the help of World ORT’s Latin America Campaign, with state-of-the-art labs in fields such as mechatronics, media production, applied maths, design and architecture, biochemistry, physics and environmental sciences on another 6,000 square meters of floor space. ORT Argentina has a technical high-school with more than 4,500 students, two post-secondary junior colleges with some 1,000 students each, and a department which develops cooperative projects and training programmes with other institutions and enterprises. Of the total Jewish high school population in and around Buenos Aires, 80 per cent attend an ORTschool.
But, as became apparent during a question and answer session with the Head of World ORT’s Education Department, Daniel Tysman, most students do not have a clear sense of how their school fits in with the international ORT family.
“We wanted them to understand the relationship between us and World ORT and how it all works,”?”? said English Department Coordinator Ana Paula Tubio. “They were eager to know the story of ORT and to meet the people behind the organisation. They value a lot what they receive and they want to know how they receive so many opportunities.”?
Student coordinator Pablo Benitez added: “This has been an amazing visit “ﾓ such a warm welcome; we’re extremely happy that we came.”?