Thousands attend ORT Mexicos education week


22 February 2008 Thousands attend ORT Mexicos education week More than 4,000 teachers and other education professionals have attended ORT Mexicos first Week of Educational Innovation and Technology twice as many as had been originally anticipated. Opened by Mexicos First Lady, Margarita Zavala de Calderon, this groundbreaking event has encompassed 20 workshops, 16 conferences, keynote speakers, an exposition of educational material, products and services and an education book fair featuring the output of eight publishing houses. The number and enthusiasm of attendees has astonished and delighted the events organisers at ORT Mexico, who are already committed to making it an annual fixture on Mexico Citys calendar. There has been a huge response from schools to the opportunity this week of activities is giving them to train their teachers, said ORT Mexico Board member Arturo Merikanskas. Teachers from 250 schools have attended, most of them not Jewish, which shows that we have tapped into a real need here. The success of this event has made us very happy about the future. It has given us ideas about how to re-focus ORT operations to meet local needs. We hope that we will be able to accomplish what our colleagues in ORT Argentina, ORT Chile and ORT Uruguay have done to raise educational standards in their countries because at the moment Mexico is lagging behind. Government efforts to improve education are often directed at students such as providing scholarships or new equipment. The chief aim of this weeks congress has been to redress the balance in favour of teachers. ORT Mexico National Director Jimmy Salinas said: We recognise that teachers are a critical part of the educational process and so we thought it would be a good idea to do something beneficial for the teachers, principals and school psychologists. Opening the Week of Educational Innovation and Technology, Mrs Zavala said: This is an opportunity to contribute to the countrys economic and social development As a society, we need to face the challenge of closing the gap between those who have opportunities and those who dont. She lauded ORT as the human face of globalisation because it worked to strengthen the education of children around the world. Conferences during the week have ranged from an examination by Dr Sylvia Dubovoy, Director of Training at the Montessori Institute of San Diego, of the relevance of Montessori teaching methods to contemporary society 100 years after the educational method was first instituted to the role of imagination in the learning of mathematics presented by Dr Ricardo Nemirovsky, Professor of Mathematics Education at San Diego State University. Workshops have featured Moises Salinas, Professor of Developmental and Social Psychology at Central Connecticut State University, on learner-centred education, and Dr Maria Isabel Aguilera on the problem of bullying. Keynote speaker Dr Howard Gardner, Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, was treated like a rock star by local teachers, said Mr Merikanskas. The lecture hall was filled to capacity with 800 people but we had to turn away 1,000 more, he said. After his lecture he was surrounded by people wanting to talk to him and asking him to sign copies of his books that they had bought. The son of Jewish refugees from Germany, Dr Gardner is recognised as one of the worlds most influential public intellectuals. He has written more than 20 books and is best known for his theory of multiple intelligences, a critique of the notion that there exists a single human intelligence than can be assessed by standard psychometric instruments. Another keynote speaker was Dr Juan Prawda, a consultant in the social sector, who for 15 years was an education specialist at the World Bank focusing on Latin America and the Caribbean. The final event of the week was a dinner attended by the Vice-Minister of Education, Miguel Szekely. ORT Mexicos Mr Salinas said: The teachers have been able to benefit from seeing whats happening around the world. The gap between the educational system in Mexico and the first world countries is huge and we have to update ourselves if we want to see progress here. Organising this congress is just one way that we can help teachers do that. World ORT Representative in Latin America Isidoro Gorodischer said the weeks events had far surpassed the most optimistic expectations. The number of participants has been huge and the people very satisfied. Its been an extraordinary experience. ORT Mexico is now the third largest ORT operation in Latin America after Argentina and Uruguay and helping to make ORT an important force for the development of educational programmes in the continent, Mr Gorodischer said. Among the participants was elementary school teacher Miguel Altamirano Contreras who said the week had enabled him and his fellow professionals to be in contact with those involved in research and so expose them to the latest ideas in education. Another attendee, Luz Marina Payan, who is in charge of a programme for gifted children, said: This convention has enabled me to complement skills essential to my everyday work. The lectures have been of the highest quality. As a member of the Public Education Secretariat I consider this effort to be very relevant and hope it will reach many more professionals. World ORT Director General Robert Singer congratulated ORT Mexico on the weeks tremendous success. I salute the professional staff and the lay leadership of ORT Mexico for this initiative which heralds a new era in ORTs 73-year contribution to Mexico, he said. The main corporate sponsors of the event, telecommunications giant TELMEX, BBVA Banks Bancomer Foundation and Mexicos leading manufacturer of packaged food, Grupo Bimbo, have already committed to support next years event. ORT Mexico, which was founded in 1935, provides educational programmes for Jews and non-Jews in Mexico as well as funding for ORT projects internationally. In 1998, it inaugurated the Max and Amparo Shein Technology and Science Resource Centre which provides IT and advanced teaching courses to schools, universities and industry. In 2006, it opened its state-of-the-art Media Training Centre used by Jewish schools and young adults in Mexico City.