Informal education centers and courses hold the key to closing the gap between Israel’s periphery and its centre, according to a senior civil servant.
Ariel Mishal, CEO of Israel’s Ministry of the Periphery, the Negev and the Galil, works closely with ORT to improve the educational opportunities available to children living outside central Israel.
World ORT Kadima Mada runs 11 excellence centers in Israel, including three regional centers in the Galil which provide services for dozens of towns, kibbutz communities and others in the area. The centers cater for Orthodox, ultra-Orthodox, secular and Arab students – with more than 8,000 people benefiting nationwide.
The YOUniversity centers welcome children aged six to 18 after school every day, and provide a focus on STEM education, hands-on activities and subsidized courses as well as opportunities to take part in international competitions and work with the most modern equipment.
Mr Mishal said ORT’s work to improve informal education in the periphery was both vital, and one of the ministry’s major goals.
“We believe that in the periphery we need to find a way to keep the children in their cities – not let them go to Tel Aviv and Hertzliya,” he said.
“To do that, the country needs to provide equal opportunities. If a 10-year-old child in Tel Aviv can learn cyber or robotics, we have to ensure the same child in Dimona or Ramat Hagolan can have the same chance.”
Working with ORT allowed the ministry to give children choices, he said.
“We picked Kadima Mada for a reason. They gave the best offer of how to give the children the best opportunities, the best instructors. We know now that the children who go to the excellence centers stay there. They want more. We see how the parents are happy that the children have something to do in the afternoon.
“In all the places we see the benefit. We know that in the army, cyber is very popular and very important. But almost none of the soldiers who go to the cyber units come from the periphery. We checked why – we understood that they did not get a chance to study cyber.
“We took a step to start to give them cyber options. Now following this work we see that those in the periphery have a chance to reach that goal and be in the army in a cyber unit. It makes a difference to the whole country.”
Mr Mishal told guests at ORT UK’s annual dinner in London: “We work with children in the periphery with big dreams – our job is to try to fulfil those dreams. The only way to close the gaps between the children of Israel is through informal education.
“We believe the future depends on the youngsters, they are the future local leaders and maybe the future leader of the state of Israel.
“We try to do our best to give the children equal opportunities like their friends in Tel Aviv. The secret to the success of the periphery depends on those children, and thanks to ORT and the excellence centers in the Negev and the Galil we try to give them as much education as we can.”
Avi Ganon, World ORT Director General and CEO, said: “The YOUniversity program is successful because it combines innovative activities, technology and equipment with professional teams and small groups of students who are proud to be of an elite group.
“ORT has a long-standing collaboration with the Israeli government and the Ministry of the Periphery, the Negev and the Galil, and we are looking forward to continuing this partnership.”