Its world-renowned high-tech, bio-tech, agricultural and military industries have enabled Israel – a small country with no natural resources – to sit amongst the community of developed Western nations. In order to keep apace of modern technological advances and prevent the "digital gap" from splitting society, investments must be made in children's education, specifically science and technology education.
In 1997, the Ministry of Education and the Rashi Foundation launched a joint multi-year initiative – named Madarom from the Hebrew words for science (Mada) and south (Darom) – to upgrade science and technology education in the southern region. The project's main aim is to raise the number of teenagers acquiring a good matriculation diploma and continuing on to higher education. Objectives include: embedding innovative result-oriented approaches to science and technology education, establishing and broadening science and high-tech programs in high schools and whetting young children's scientific appetite. Key elements of the program include capital investments in computers and science labs, regional teacher training centers, summer science camps and regular informal activities during the year.
For over a decade, Madarom has been operating dozens of programs in the south, from Ashdod to Eilat. The project has contributed to dramatic improvements in the achievements of southern pupils. Over the past five years there has been: a 67% increase in the number of students from the south taking top-level Physics matriculation; 35% increase for Computer Science, 22% increase for Biology, and 15% for Chemistry; In standard tests of school pupils, the southern region has moved up from bottom place to above the national average.
Since 2008, Madarom is being operated by Rashi under government tender, with funding coming from national and local government, other partners and Rashi. The central programs are:
o Access to Higher Education – a program that prepares top-achieving students for university, reaching 1,180 students across the region.
o Ilan Ramon Youth Physics Center – the facility at Ben-Gurion University, built by Rashi to enable excellence in Physics for southern teenagers, offers programs for nearly 12,000 students.
o Summer science camps – provision of quality vacation activity for 4,600 youngsters in education centers nationwide.
One of the most notable achievements of the Madarom project is the "Madarom Science Park" in the city of Be'er Sheva. This state-of-the-art park was conceived and developed by Rashi as a center for innovative and engaging science education programs. The parks mission is to promote scientific excellence amongst the Negev's younger generation through formal and informal educational programs.