Robert Singer addresses UN conference on future of education


ORT has joined a prestigious group of organizations at a United Nations event on the transformation of education.

Robert Singer, Chair of World ORT’s Board of Trustees, took part in the session on Tuesday alongside academics and education specialists from around the world.

The panel addressed the question: “If you wanted to create a world class, affordable, accessible system of higher education open to all, how would you do it?”

Speakers discussed issues of pedagogy, certification, delivery system and the role of non-conventional sources and institutions.

The session was organized by the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG) and the World Academy of Art and Science (WAAS).

Mr Singer explained ORT’s work as an education network driven by Jewish values and went on to give examples of the efforts made across the network to rethink educational methods.

He said ORT’s International Co-operation global aid program had been a leading example of work to help disadvantaged people in Africa, Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union and other regions.

Mr Singer added: “I believe education is the key to everything – especially Jewish continuity and Jewish survival. It is also key to fighting antisemitism and attacks on the Jewish people.

“At ORT we believe in equal educational rights and diversity, including of identities and cultures.”

Robert Singer and the UNOG/WAAS panel

He gave the example of the ORT University in Mexico, under the stewardship of rector Moises Salinas.

“The university’s academic programs are designed to look at the most pressing social problems in Mexico – violence, corruption, inequality, environmental issues,” said Mr Singer.

“The goal of the university is to develop students’ competencies and attitudes for them to become social entrepreneurs who make a difference in the world.

“This constructivist, learner-centered educational model promotes active, collaborative learning and develops critical thinking skills.”

The session was moderated by Remus Pricopie, a WAAS Fellow, and Witold Kinsner, one of the world’s leading professors of electrical and computer engineering.

Fellow panellists included Garry Jacobs, President and CEO of the World Academy of Art and Science; Alberto Zucconi, President of the International Association for Cognitive Psychotherapy; and Valerie Hannon, co-founder of the Global Education Leaders Partnership.

During a question and answer session, Mr Singer said world education was facing its most critical juncture in decades and urged education leaders to consider how best to teach social good or citizenship when working mostly online.

He added: “I think we should try to focus on how we are dealing with these new realities. I also want to focus on the politicization of education. Countries are acting locally without caring about what’s happening globally.

“Most importantly, how do we do it together? We are people here from different countries, we are meeting at conferences, but how do we move to the next step?

“Global integration is the key. I am living now in Israel, a country that has opened itself up to influences from around the world. This is why this country is dealing well both with the coronavirus and also the economy and market forces.”

The panel also discussed the importance of creativity and diversity of skills in education and childhood, as well as the impact of Covid and how to fight funding cuts with innovative pedagogy.

Watch: Robert Singer addresses UN Conference on the future of education

Watch the full session: Transformation of Global Education