CET provides educational boost for Israeli youth

Besides enriching education, CET sponsors many forms of online communication between Israeli youth.A 31-year-old organization designed to supplement, enrich and enhance the Israeli education system is still going strong as its services have multiplied with the growth of the Internet …

Besides enriching education, CET sponsors many forms of online communication between Israeli youth.A 31-year-old organization designed to supplement, enrich and enhance the Israeli education system is still going strong as its services have multiplied with the growth of the Internet during the past 10 years.

And the programs of the Tel Aviv-based Center for Educational Technologies are needed more than ever today as Israel’s defense spending increase and the economic downturn since the beginning of the Conflict have sapped resources that might have otherwise been available for education, according to Arik Rosenblum, resource development associate for CET.

The organization, founded by the Rothchild Foundation in 1971, began by offering classroom enrichment programs and supplementing libraries. Then, as personal computers were introduced and evolved, it began putting PCs into Israel’s neediest schools.

Today, the organization is helping students and teachers by offering curriculums and libraries to schools online and supplementing educational programs through distance learning via the Internet. It is also fostering online dialogue between groups that rarely communicate: secular and Orthodox Jewish youth and Israeli and Palestinian teenagers.

CET particularly targets special education students, new immigrants, the underprivileged and minorities to help assure that the often-used, but often unfulfilled promise to “leave no child behind” becomes a reality in Israel, Rosenblum said.

“Our mission is to realize every child’s potential,” he said. “The defense budget is devouring every extra penny that’s available, so we’ve been trying to aid the educational system to keep some sort of consistency.”

CET’s dozens of programs include:

– Alpha, a virtual high school, offering basic and enrichment classes online to high school students. A 16-year-old terror attack victim is now using Alpha to continue his studies from home while he recovers from his injuries. The program is supplementing the efforts of teachers and boosting the performance of many students throughout the country.

– Likrat, an Internet chat room aimed at fostering dialogue between secular and Orthodox Jewish youth in Israel, who attend different schools and rarely meet despite living in contiguous city neighborhoods.

– Living in the Holy Land, an online curriculum designed to promote understanding between Israeli and Palestinian high school students by teaching them about each other’s religious beliefs.

– Children’s Democratic Society, an online program that teaches the values and functions of democracy by helping teens set up an effective student government in their schools. The students create legislative, executive and judicial forums to create and enforce social and behavior rules at the school. CET says these programs have been effective in empowering student initiative and reducing school violence.

– Teen Talk International, provides an online forum for students worldwide that includes a chat room and a facilitator. The site recently featured a forum between a high school in Los Angeles and one in Tel Aviv that dealt with the issue of whether authorities ought to be allowed to use force to obtain information from terrorist suspects.

“The results of (the Teen Talk) forum were surprising,” Rosenblum said. “The Israeli kids were much stronger in defending the rights of terror suspects. The whole objective was to give them the opportunity to grapple with the issue.”

Besides programs in Israel and a presence in the Palestinian Authority that has been curtailed because of the conflict, CET is working with 12 schools in South America and a handful in Russia.

“There’s a million and a half children in the Israeli schools and we haven’t reached every one yet,” Rosenblum said.