ORT makes the grade at Oxford


Set in the historic surroundings of Oxford University, World ORT hosted 30 of its National Directors from around the world at its Second Annual National Directors Forum in March. The forum proved to be an effective opportunity for National Directors, the highest professional body of ORT operations worldwide, to share thoughts and ideas on improving and expanding the delivery of education throughout the ORT network. Among the topics of discussion were teaching Hebrew and Jewish studies in the Diaspora, adult education and distance learning. During their respective presentations, Guy Seniak, director of ORT France and Baruj Zaidenknopf, director if ORT Argentina stressed the importance of ORT’s role in teaching Hebrew in the Diaspora. ‘Our continuity heavily depends on the centrality of Israel and on the consolidation of its culture through the teaching of the Hebrew language in the Diaspora,’ Zaidenknopf said. ORT South Africa Director Iris Colyn and ORT Chile Director Marcelo Lewkow presented examples of humanitarian programmes they offer that reach out to non- Jewish communities in their countries. In South Africa, the Department of Forestry and Water works with ORT to teach adult basic education and technology to people in townships. In a country where more than 70 percent of adults are illiterate, ORT programmes teach students problem solving techniques through scientific experiments. ‘It’s amazing how confident the students become,’ Colyn said. ‘Many of them go on to start their own small business.’ ORT Chile, with the financial help of a telecommunications company based in Spain, is helping adult blind people learn how to use the Internet and the Windows operating system by way of software that translates the program into sound.’In a country where there is no government policy regarding disabled people, ORT is teaching computer skills and at the same time giving participants the opportunity to develop a social life,’ Lewkow said. Jorge Gr nberg, rector of the ORT University in Uruguay and Emphraim Buhks, director of ORT Operations U.S.A. shared their experiences with their colleges’ distance learning projects. E-learning in the case of both programmes proved to be an inexpensive way to educate a large number of people. In some instances, Bramson ORT’s research showed that distance learners fared better than class learners. ‘Some advantages to e-learning that we have found in adult students is that they become independent learners and many of them find that it is easier for because they can take classes according to their schedules.’ Buhks said. The Forum was led by Robert Singer, director general of World ORT, who said that Oxford University reflects ORT’s ideals by combining a rich history, a dedication to learning and a firm commitment to scientific and technological progress. ‘I’m sure that this seminar has inspired all who attended to intensify our efforts as we continue with ORT’s vital work in education,’ he said.