Earlier this week, more than 600 people gathered at the Colegio Israelita de Mexico (CIM), Mexico’s oldest Jewish school, for a ceremony all agree is an historic moment in the development of the 40,000-strong community. It is the first school in Mexico to affiliate with World ORT and marks the realization of a long-held desire by ORT Mexico to have an ORT school in the country.
For the school, which is now known as CIM-ORT, and for ORT Mexico and World ORT, the immediate goal is to improve the quality of education by building on the programmatic and pedagogic reforms initiated since the signing of a cooperation agreement in May. And in doing so, CIM-ORT may set in motion dramatic changes in the community’s education system.
“This is a very, very important evolution, not only for the school but for the community,” said the Chairman of the school’s governing body, Dan Ostrosky. “The world has changed in recent years and globalization is the name of the game. Being part of World ORT means becoming part of a global network which will bring international best practice to our school. We will be able to raise the skills of our teachers and attract better teachers.
This is particularly important as recent socio-economic changes increase the pressure on Jewish children to be able to compete successfully.
“Traditionally, many parents would put their children into the family business no matter what their performance at school,” said ORT Mexico President Arturo Merikanskas. “That is no longer the case. In addition, there are families who are not doing so well so their children have to be well equipped to find good jobs with career potential straight out of school.”
While a strong education is more important than ever, Jewish schools in Mexico are seen as needing to improve the quality of their provision.
“Almost all Jewish children go to Jewish schools but parents make a sacrifice in doing that,” said CIM-ORT’s Vice President, Mario Becker. “There are schools with higher educational standards, such as the American School, the French School and the Japanese School. As the economy changes, so parents are becoming much more aware of the need for a better education.”
However the structure of the community’s education system is not seen as capable of meeting parents’ expectations of a major improvement in standards. There are 16 Jewish schools, each serving ethnic, religious and ideological sub-groups of the community; overcapacity and competition is seen as an obstacle to efficiency and efficacy.
Collaboration between the school, which was founded in 1924, and ORT stretches back some 30 years. In that time, ORT has provided IT, science and technical training programmes and, four years ago, ORT Mexico inaugurated a Media Training Centre at the school which serves students from all the local Jewish day school as well as young adults seeking to widen their skills base.
Since signing the cooperation agreement last year, CIM-ORT has enjoyed access to the World ORT network and its students and teachers have been able to participate in ORT activities, from competitions to exchanges and seminars.
[ORT Mexico president] Arturo Merikanskas said it was a complicated process for two educational organizations to unite in the way the school and ORT have done. And in a Jewish community which, like just about every other, is more used to communal organizations splitting and competing, it is truly historic to see such long-established entities coming together to work for a common purpose.