Mexico’s oldest Jewish school has affiliated with World ORT – the first of the community’s 16 schools to do so.
The Colegio Israelita de Mexico School’s (CIM) signing of a cooperation agreement with World ORT formalises and upgrades a 30-year history of collaboration which has seen ORT provide IT, science and technical training programmes there. Three years ago, ORT Mexico inaugurated a Media Training Centre at the school which services students from all the local Jewish day schools as well young adults seeking to widen their skills base.
“This agreement is only the basis for opening the full menu of options to work together and we’re doing it with the world’s best educational institution,” said Alejandro Fastag Katz, the President of the school’s board. “We’re very proud about working with ORT and very excited about being part of the World ORT community and for ORT to be a greater part of what we’re doing in Mexico. We’ve started something that will really move us forward. We’re redefining the future of Jewish education in Mexico.”
The main goal of the agreement is to facilitate and expand academic, technical and administrative cooperation between ORT and the CIM to allow the implementation of best educational and administrative practices at the school in a context which promotes maximum development of the students and prioritises the transfer of educational technology for the implementation of high-performance pedagogic models.
“This is a hugely significant step for us,” said ORT Mexico National Director Jimmy Salinas. “We have been looking to become a school for 15 years but demographic changes mean that there is already overcapacity in the Jewish school network here so the community did not want another school. So having the opportunity to collaborate so intimately with a school in the network essentially fulfils our wish. This is only the beginning of a long term project between our two institutions. Many good things are yet to come.”
This week, only days after signing the agreement with Mexico-based Mauricio Merikanskas, Chairman of World ORT’s Board of Trustees, Mr Fastag and ORT Mexico President Arturo Merikanskas, together with Vice President Ferenz Feher, World ORT consultant Gaby Meyassed, Mario Becker, Dan Ostrosky and Jose Broidman are in Argentina and Uruguay to see first hand ORT’s highly successful secondary and tertiary and university programmes there.
“We want to see what we can use from the models there,” he said. “We’re not limiting ourselves to these models but they will help us to understand what ORT has to offer and start us on the path of redefining our model of education.”
One of the advantages of being part of ORT’s international network is that CIM can access the experience and expertise of a wide range of schools and programmes in dozens of countries to help it realise its own ambitions. But CIM can now fully participate in all ORT activities from sports to technical to competitions and student and teacher exchanges and seminars.
This sharing of information for the design and development of educational and administrative models and the mutual visits by staff and lay leaders are part of a series of initiatives envisaged by the agreement in the short term, the other element being the joint development of educational and fundraising projects.
Collaborative programmes will aim to enhance academic standards, professionalise the school’s academic and administrative structure and processes – from curriculum review to teacher selection and training – and use technology as a way of triggering excellence.
“Jewish education in Mexico needs to be reformed, it needs to be brought into the 21st century, and that’s what this collaboration is going to do,” Mr Salinas said. “We want to make CIM the best Jewish school in Mexico and in this way stimulate similar improvements in the other schools.”
Mr Fastag agrees: “The economy of Mexico has changed and the structure of the Jewish population has changed so we have to redefine what the needs of the community are and redefine existing educational models to comply with whatever those needs may be.”
His school is ideally placed to work with ORT in changing the educational landscape. CIM “has always been about breaking the mould” Mr Fastag said, adding that it had been the first school in Mexico to introduce computer training. And he was happy that CIM would be the conduit through which ORT could boost the entire community’s education provision.
“When World ORT held its Board of Representatives meeting in Mexico City earlier this year we understood what was behind the ORT we know in Mexico,” he said. “We fell in love with World ORT and what it does throughout the world; we wanted to be part of it and to offer it a greater presence in Mexico. There are around 9,000 students in the Jewish school network here; that is about 95 per cent of all Jewish children. “With such a high participation rate in Jewish schools, it was a pity that ORT was not so well positioned in the community.”