World ORT ‘YOU-niversity’ program gives children from periphery towns a chance to gain science and technology skills.
Copyright: World ORT
By Avigayil Kadesh
In a new move to provide Jewish and Arab children from Israel’s poorer periphery towns with a grounding in science and technology, World ORT (the world’s largest Jewish education and vocational training non-governmental organization) and the Ministry of Development of the Negev and the Galilee this year opened “YOU-niversity,” five afterschool innovation centers.
Operating in Kiryat Gat and Dimona in the south, and Nazareth, Safed and Nahariya in the north, the 15-million-shekel ($4.1 million) program is managed by World ORT’s arm in Israel, Kadima Mada (“Forward, Science,” in English).
Each YOU-niversity will offer courses in fields such as astronomy, physics, medicine, genetics and applied art in cooperation with leading figures in academia and industry.
The goal is to boost the number of young people choosing to study the scientific and technological subjects that are essential to Israel’s continued success in research and knowledge-based industries.
Investing in Israel’s future
"We need to prioritize the needs of children in the periphery so that they can become top educational achievers,” said Silvan Shalom, Minister of Water and Energy, Minister for Regional Development and the Development of the Negev and the Galilee.
“This kind of educational collaboration enhances the ministry’s ability to invest in the children of the periphery, from north to south. We devote much of our resources to education, such as smart classrooms, free Internet access for high school students and the establishment of elite regional groups of educators.”
While Israeli public schools can have as many as 40 pupils in a classroom with one teacher, with the school day ending at lunchtime, courses in the five afterschool centers will be limited to about 20 kids. They will be taught by a local teacher along with an expert from prestigious institutions such as the Weizmann Institute of Science, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Machon Lev-Jerusalem College of Technology and Micron Industries.
Not limited to gifted pupils
"I believe that many graduates of this program will go on to be scientists following in the footsteps of Israel’s leaders in industry, research and development," said Avi Ganon, CEO of World ORT Kadima Mada.
YOU-niversities are not limited to academically gifted students but are open to any child with the desire to attend. If an interested student is unable to pay the nominal fee, it will be subsidized.
At the start of the school year, hundreds of children had enrolled in each location, though not all will choose to continue with the program.
The purpose is to connect the periphery with industry and academic institutions, according to Kadima Mada.
World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer
Founded in 1880 in Russia, World ORT reaches some 200,000 Jews and non-Jews in more than 100 countries. In Israel, the organization is active in more than 165 schools in 55 local authorities; training and assisting some 3,300 teachers and serving more than 150,000 students in under-resourced areas.