A leading British wealth management firm’s charitable foundation is investing in the first stage of ORT’s efforts to establish ICT (Information Communications Technology) training in schools for children with special needs throughout Russia.
The St James’s Place Foundation’s support meets the first year’s costs in implementing “Bridging the Digital Divide,” a four-year, non-sectarian program to enhance the career prospects of deaf children, and represents the largest single corporate donation in British ORT’s history. The Foundation has earmarked a similar amount for next year subject to progress.
“This is an initiative with a definite future,” said Alan E. Klugman, National Executive Director of ORT America. “Although ORT is implementing this important project to improve the educational experience of hearing-impaired people in Russia, there’s no reason why we couldn’t help thousands of deaf students worldwide. I’m very excited about it.”
The money will establish fully equipped ICT laboratories at two pilot schools, Boarding School No. 30 in Moscow and Vocational Training Boarding School No. 2 in Tula, which is the only educational institution in Russia, focused on children with special needs from low income families, educating some 360 hearing impaired students.
In partnership with Hewlett-Packard, local education authorities and social support services, ORT will use the experience of the Moscow ORT Technology College, which is a pioneer of ICT training and distance learning for hearing impaired students, to develop tailored ICT and computer graphics training materials which will ultimately be shared with all teachers of deaf children for use in their schools. And it will connect the pilot schools and supporting ORT centers to the ORT e-learning network.
The computer center, which ORT installed at the Tula school in 2008, has made teachers aware that deaf children learn ICT skills in a different way to those who can hear; there’s a greater need for repeated practice of new techniques rather than passive learning. This project builds on the experience of the past two years. Developing a curriculum tailored to the needs of hearing impaired students will enable their more effective preparation for working life. Also, by training the teachers, 200,000 hearing impaired Russian children can benefit from this initiative.
The computer center installed at the Tula Vocational Training Boarding School is one of 16 business skills training centers that HP and ORT have set up in Russia and Ukraine under the Graduate Entrepreneurship Training through IT (GET-IT) scheme, which focuses on the need to encourage job creation and entrepreneurship among young people by providing training courses dealing with practical IT solutions for daily business challenges.
The equipment installed for GET-IT will be used for at least the initial stages of “Bridging the Digital Divide” at Tula. Like other schools for the deaf, Tula has suffered from chronic underinvestment in recent years. Traditionally it has taught students skills in metal working, shoemaking and tailoring but now, with ORT’s help, students can keep pace with the rapid rate of social and technological change.