The World ORT education organization is seeking to establish a network of 25 “boutique” high schools excelling in science and technology studies in the Negev, Galilee and elsewhere in the periphery, the goal being to reduce socioeconomic gaps in the country.Avi Ganon, CEO of World ORT Kadima Mada, the branch promoting science in Israel, said on Tuesday that Israelis living outside the country’s center were educationally disadvantaged and better schools in such regions were critical to reducing inequalities.“I don’t want to hear about how only two pupils in the whole of Kiryat Malachi took five units of math for the high-school diploma. We cannot continue as a country with such a situation,” Ganon told The Jerusalem Post at World ORT’s general assembly in Jerusalem. “We need to work in the periphery, focus our resources on those areas, and reduce the gaps between pupils there and those from the center of the country.”World ORT Kadima Mada currently runs three schools in the periphery, with another four now poised to join the new network. It seeks to expand to 25 schools within the next three years.The organization says that the chain of schools will focus on educational fields relating to science and technology in order to provide pupils with the tools to deal with the requirements of modern economies.Conrad Giles, the newly elected World ORT president, said the organization had succeeded in transforming itself to meet the needs of the Jewish people in changing times.“Over last 136 years, we have given Jewish individuals the tools necessary for achieving quality of life,” Giles said. “Originally, we were involved in teaching Jews in Russia agriculture....We have transformed our institution to meet the needs of our people in our changing society.” At the assembly, which was held from Sunday to Tuesday, a World ORT initiative bridging its international educational services with its activities in Israel reached its zenith, with the finals of a debating competition for high school-aged girls.Two debating teams, one from Sofia, Bulgaria, and one from east Jerusalem, took part in the final, having triumphed over other teams in their respective countries in earlier rounds. The teams were comprised of girls who had taken an extra-curricular course in debating that was funded by World ORT.They debated whether “traditional school based education is obsolete in today’s society.”“We don’t have the opportunity to express ourselves, and for me it is important that in our society, we get that opportunity,” said Shahd, 17, from Beit Hanina in east Jerusalem, whose team won the final.“We know English very well, but we wanted to develop that further.”Siham, 14, said the course had helped them think outside the box and gave them an opportunity to look at alternative opinions on different issues.“It gives you a different perspective, something you might never have thought about,” she said.