29 April 2009 World ORTs investments bear fruit The elevation of two schools in Prague and Moscow to the highest rank of secondary education in their respective countries is a sign of how World ORTs commitment to post-Socialist communities has helped many new educational institutions in the region to establish themselves as centres of excellence. The Russian authorities have recognised Moscow ORT Technology School as a gymnasium, the name given to the elite band of high schools in the country, after an exhaustive evaluation process. And in the Czech Republic, the Lauder Gur Aryeh Jewish Community Day School, which features the ORT Lauder-Tye Science and Technology Centre, has been permitted to extend its lyceum-standard high school programme from the current four years to eight years. These developments mean a more confident future for both school communities and a sense of fruition to the investment and support which World ORT has brought since the fall of the iron curtain. No matter what the country or city, it is always difficult for a new school to make itself well recognised by the educational establishment of professionals, parents and state officials, said Vladimir Dribinskiy, Head of World ORTs Coordination and Education and Technology Departments. Its a daunting pedagogical challenge but one which World ORT has taken on, allowing us to be very much a help to these schools. The Moscow ORT Technology School has long been seen as gymnasium standard but its official certification as the citys only Jewish gymnasium is no less a cause for celebration and congratulation for its staff and supporters. From the states point of view this change of status is effective recognition that the schools professionals are self-sufficient and can manage the academic life of the school by themselves, Mr Dribinskiy said. The National Director of ORT Russia, Dr. Slava Leschchiner, paid particular tribute to the schools principal, Dr. Marina Moiseeva. In her three years as principal she has brought to bear a great experience in management and knowledge of modern educational trends around the world accumulated in her work for UNESCO and other organisations, Dr. Leshchiner said. He said that Dr. Moiseeva had focused on raising the standards of foreign language teaching particularly English and Hebrew and fully utilising distance learning technology. The school is one of only a handful which have been granted the licence required to teach distance learning courses. The schools new designation means a doubling in the amount of money it receives from the state, Dr. Moiseeva said. The new budget will be used to raise teachers salaries, to provide more lessons in English and Hebrew, and to provide additional extra-curricular activities in fields which stimulate the most interest in students, she said. I expect to receive formal, written confirmation of the change in status from the Moscow Department of Education within a month. Once we get it we will start to change the school curriculum and settle new terms with staff. However, because of the economic crisis, we may not receive the additional funds before the start of the next school year so we have adopted a slower, step-by-step approach than we would otherwise have done. Like many schools in the Czech Republic, the Lauder Gur Aryeh Jewish Community Day School (the Czech Republics only Jewish school) has been offering non-selective elementary education for nine years; the more rigorous secondary curriculum becoming available for children from the age of 15 as they prepare for university entrance. This meant that parents of ambitious 12-year-olds could be attracted to other, non-Jewish, schools which did provide lengthier secondary study options. Combined with a post-Velvet Revolution demographic dip caused by people starting families at a later age, this meant the school had seen its student roll dip from 190 to 130 and some of its elementary classes shrink to a handful of children. Now we can offer parents a more intensive education for their children from an earlier age and so keep them studying in a Jewish environment for longer, said Deputy Principal Lucie Soklova, the World ORT Representative at the school. Over the past three years, World ORT has joined the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation and others to support the school. The ORT Lauder-Tye Science and Technology Centre, which was formally opened in 2006, boasts the most up-to-date facilities for studying Information and Communications Technology (ICT). In addition, with World ORTs help, the school has established an intelligent science laboratory with computerised data loggers and is working on making two smart classrooms with Interactive White Boards, Geographic Information System (GIS) facilities and other educational technology. I am sure that these developments have made the school more attractive for parents but they also wanted a longer secondary education, Ms Soklova said. But the authorities are reluctant to allow schools to make this change because they feel there are already enough such secondary schools and they are worried that having more will harm the elementary schools. So we are all very happy that we have been able to convince the authorities to allow us to change the structure of our school. This will ensure our survival.