When leading academic institutions across continents partner on interdisciplinary innovation, that is a groundbreaking development. When such innovation also counters socioeconomic, religious, and gender stereotypes, it is that much more powerful.
Israel has long drawn strength and inspiration from political and diplomatic supporters in Canada. But there are other key ways in which Canada proves itself an overseas ally for the Jewish state. One area where our countries work so well together is in developing strategic partnerships via academic collaboration. For example, partnering with the University of Toronto’s Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation (IHPME) has helped the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT) develop Israel’s first program in health informatics, a cutting-edge field that aims to improve the quality of patient care by utilizing data as the basis for making better clinical decisions.
This highly fruitful match between academic institutions, facilitated by Judith Shamian, past president of the International Council of Nurses and a member of JCT’s board of trustees, has led to the development of a master’s program primarily aimed at women studying nursing at JCT, whose nursing department had already been recognized by Israel’s Ministry of Health as the country’s best of its kind. The quality of today’s health care hinges on, among other factors, practitioners’ ability to work in an environment that constantly incorporates new technologies. That is where health informatics comes into the picture, creating a new generation of tech-savvy nurses and other health professionals who make sound, data-informed decisions.
JCT’s nursing graduates have a pass rate of virtually 100 per cent every year on national accreditation exams – the highest scores in Israel. Among the 900 students studying toward nursing degrees at JCT, there are more than 450 haredim, nearly 200 new immigrants, and over 30 Ethiopian-Israelis. In addition to the health informatics program, JCT’s nursing department offers a geriatric nurse practitioner’s certification course, a program to enrich students’ orthopaedic experience as part of their surgical training, and a forthcoming paramedic certification program. That’s why U of T chose Israel’s largest and most prestigious nursing program for this trailblazing partnership.
On a broader level, JCT creates a more inclusive and harmonious Israel through the college’s commitment to providing high-quality academics to religious women and men alike. As the driving force behind the integration of religious Israelis into the country’s workforce, JCT reduces their dependence on government support and helps them become more active participants in Israeli society.
JCT provides all of its students with a learning environment that simultaneously meets their religious needs and focuses on secular subjects that lead to professional career development. This meets a crucial need in Israel, whose Central Bureau of Statistics found that about 50 per cent of haredi men were employed by the end of last year. JCT inverts the plot line, with its haredi graduates attaining an 89 per cent employment rate, including 77 per cent in their field of choice. Among the 1,000 Israeli haredim who studied computer science in 2017, two-thirds of them studied at JCT.
This institutional mission is a vital recognition of Israel’s demographic reality. The country’s haredi fertility rate is 6.9 children per woman, compared to 2.4 per non-haredi woman, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics. The haredi community, which currently makes up 9 per cent of Israel’s total population, is projected to comprise 16 per cent of the population by 2030 and about one-third by 2065. This means that the importance of training and employing religious Israelis will continue to rise.
JCT is crafting a new and exciting story for Israel – one that shatters stereotypes by featuring the high-level professional contributions of the haredi community, including through advancement in innovative fields such as health informatics. Thanks in no small part to the support of JCT’s Canadian partners, more breakthroughs in this story are surely on the horizon.