World ORT’s New Centers of Excellence in Israel Oversubscribed

Teenagers from the African Hebrew Israelite community of Dimona take part in their first applied physics class given by the Weizmann Institute of Science at World ORT’s Center of Excellence in the town.

There has been an overwhelming response to World ORT’s new Centers of Excellence in Israel with places at four of the five facilities massively oversubscribed.

Thousands of teenagers eager to supplement their formal education with quality extra-curricular courses signed up to study subjects ranging from computer technology and marine sciences to microbiology and robotics at the Centers in Nahariya, Tsfat, Nazareth, Kiryat Gat and Dimona.

To meet demand, extra classes have been added in Design and Architecture, which is being run in cooperation with the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, and forensic science, which is organized in cooperation with the police.

Most of the courses started yesterday, although academics from the Weizmann Institute of Science have been giving lessons in applied physics to the teens at Kiryat Gat and Dimona for over a week already – the first time that this institution has provided off-campus tutoring.

The NIS 15 million ($3.9 million) program managed by World ORT’s arm in Israel, Kadima Mada, is the result of a unique three-way partnership between the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee, World ORT, and the municipalities in which the Centers of Excellence are situated. Within Israel, the Centers are better known as “YOU-niversities”, which reflects the program’s goal of opening up children’s eyes to their own abilities which could take them to university and beyond.

“These Centers will give opportunities for learning and advancement that until now were available only in the affluent communities in and around the Tel Aviv conurbation,” said World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer. “There are great, innovative minds in peripheral communities, diamonds who have only needed the chance to be polished in order to reveal their brilliance. And in helping individuals reach their full potential we are helping the country as a whole to further develop its knowledge economy.”

The Centers pick up where regular schools leave off: open during the afternoons and evenings, they offer subjects which are not available at the students’ day schools, which close at lunchtime. And where school classes can have as many as 40 students, making personalized attention difficult, the Centers’ classes are limited to 20 students who enjoy the support of two mentors.

Emphasis is placed on developing the children’s problem solving, higher order thinking skills, critical thinking and teamwork. All the courses are structured around the completion of a final project or presentation.