Government and private sector officials on Tuesday night kicked off a NIS 15 million project aimed at enhancing science and technology education in underprivileged Jewish and Arab communities. The new program, sponsored by World ORT’s Kadima Mada branch and the Negev and Galilee Development Ministry, is opening five new “YOUniversity” centers that will aim to provide students with a wide range of extracurricular science and technology courses, according to World ORT.

Ultimately, the hope is that the centers will help “reverse the decline in the number of young people choosing to study the scientific and technological subjects,” a statement from the organization said.

“YOUniversities will be a meeting point between youth in the periphery and leading figures in academia and industry,” said World ORT CEO Robert Singer.

“The teenagers will be encouraged to aim high and will receive the skills and knowledge to realize their aspirations,” he said.

This month, YOUniversities will be opening in Kiryat Gat, Nazareth, Tzefat, Nahariya and Dimona.

During afternoons and evenings, students will be able to enhance their skills in a variety of subjects, such as astronomy, physics, medicine, genetics and applied art, according to World ORT’s Israel arm, Kadima Mada.

Unlike school classroom settings, where the student to teacher ratio is often about 40 to 1, the ratio at the YOUniversities will be about 20 to 1, the Kadima Mada statement said. Each center’s curriculum will draw from leading institutions around the country – such as the Weizmann Institute, Hebrew University, Ben Gurion University and Machon Lev – Jerusalem College of Technology and Micron Industries.

“Education is the mirror of the country – we need to prioritize the needs of children in the periphery so that they can become top educational achievers,” said Deputy Prime Minister and Negev and Galilee Development Minister Silvan Shalom.

“This kind of educational collaboration enhances the ministry’s ability to invest in the children of the periphery, from north to south,” he said.

Avi Ganon, CEO of World ORT Kadima Mada, expressed confidence that students participating in the YOUniversity program will be strong members of the scientific community – “following in the footsteps of Israel’s leaders of industry, research and development.”

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