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'The Raphael Recanati International School (RRIS) is one our most important programs," IDC president Amnon Rubinstein told Metro earlier this month.
Director of the International School, Uri Goldflam is gung-ho about fulfilling his boss's vision.
"Two years ago we had just over 100 foreign students. Last year we doubled our enrolment to 200. And this year we have close to 400 students from 43 countries," says Goldflam.
The opportunity to study in English has encouraged young Jews from all over the world to experience Israel in an academic environment. The unique feature about the program is that students can take degrees in computer science, business administration & marketing, or government, diplomacy & strategy in English. A degree in communication will be also offered next year.
Interestingly, native Israelis are increasingly attracted to the program.
"They want to perfect their English-language skills, realizing that to cut it in today's global village, they need a command of English. It is the lingua franca of most of the business conducted in the world today, and competitive young Israelis do not want to be handicapped," says Goldflam.
RRIS marketing director Mimi Laufer, who came to Israel at the age of five from Australia, emphasizes "the enriching mix of different cultures. The cross-pollination of ideas and perspectives from students from so many diverse countries definitely adds to the intellectual as well as the social spice of their experience."
Melodie Mane, a student from France, agrees. "The IDC offers the foreign student an unbelievable experience, even if they don't settle in Israel. I know of many French students who are not necessarily Zionists, who have opted to study at the RRIS instead of at home in France. The IDC offers a top education as well as an adventure. I am mixing with so many students from so many different countries. That's very exciting."
Goldflam admits encountering a fair amount of skepticism when the international school opened two years ago.
"It was at the height of the intifada, and many people had obvious reservations. How wrong they were. Twenty percent of our first-year students are from abroad. I predict that in four years' time, that percentage will have risen to fifty. Our enrolment has already doubled twice in two years, and we hope to improve on this trend," he says.
With its impressive cadre of high-profile lecturers, it's not surprising that the RRIS has been attracting an increasing number of overseas students.
Among the nearly 400 foreign students are 12 South Africans. This is something that Jonathan Davis, the IDC's vice president and head of the RRIS, is planning to double. A former emissary to South Africa in the 1980s, Davis laments the lost opportunity to encourage school leavers to study in Israel "because of the opportunities that did not exist at the time. With language an obvious barrier, it was difficult to entice young Jews to consider an Israeli university where they would first have to do a preparatory year and then, with a below par standard of Hebrew, compete with native-born Israelis. Not easy. The IDC has provided the solution to this problem, and we can already see the results."
In January, more than 200 Jewish day-school pupils on South Africa's Israel Encounter program visited the IDC, where South African students addressed them. Marketing director Laufer was ecstatic with the response.
"Some 70 participants filled in forms indicating an interest in studying at the IDC some time in the future. This was the highest interest shown of any visiting group in the past to our campus," she says.
Next month, a delegation of students together with Davis will be visiting South Africa to promote the RRIS program.
"I am now equipped to offer unique opportunities. We are also in a position to offer scholarships to youngsters with excellent grades. A degree from the IDC, and the world is their oyster," exclaims Davis.
Who knows, maybe they will discover that the oyster is to be found right here in Israel.
For information about the IDC, contact Mimi Laufer at firstname.lastname@example.org
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