The Summer Olympics and Paralympics held in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 was much more than an isolated sporting event – it became the inspiration behind a new initiative in a school in Rio de Janeiro that places sports at the core of its curriculum. This new educational experiment has proven successful: since its launch, three other schools in the area have incorporated the model.
Ginásio Experimental Olímpico is a new educational model that has been designed to guide children in the lead up to the next Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2020. While academic excellence is still a major part of the curriculum – part of the programme includes English classes every day – the focus is to develop the children’s sporting potential, giving them the necessary training and skills to compete at a world class standard in their chosen sporting discipline.
This revolutionary model is the first of its kind in Brazil, being the only educational programme to fully integrate both academics and sports. With long-term sporting development plans, students are treated as athletes. Every day, students have physical education classes with a strong focus on their chosen sport. This gives students the freedom to select a sport and work towards enhancing and refining their skills in that discipline. The physical training is supported by Projeto da Vida (Life Project), a programme that teaches children to set goals, strive for personal development, and create plans for short-term and long-term achievements.
The project was developed and launched by the Secretary of State for Education of Rio de Janeiro. It reflects a growing recognition of the link between sport and educational success. While this formal educational model may be unprecedented in Brazil, many NGOs throughout the country have been encouraging children’s development with sports for many years, focusing specifically on less privileged areas. While they may vary in structural terms and sporting disciplines, one theme is coherent among them – to create conditions that will lessen the impact of social vulnerability and provide opportunities for future employment, helping to guide children away from a life of crime.
Bola pra Frente is an NGO that has operated in Rio de Janeiro for the last 15 years. Working closely with six to 17-year-olds, the non-profit organization helps develop social skills and encourage children to learn in a safe, stimulating environment using sports as the main tool. Soccer and swimming are among some of the sports that are encouraged, and regular competitions keep the children motivated to remain committed and dedicated. Estrela da Favela based in Mangueira also uses sports such as tennis and soccer to supplement seminars and English classes in its non-profit educational programme tailored for children living in the favela community.
It’s not just in Rio de Janeiro that NGOs are using a sports-educational model to positively guide children’s development. The Instituto Esportes Educação (IEE) in São Paulo focuses on two channels – educating children and adolescents through sporting activities, and training teachers and interns in using sport-educational models. It also helps raise awareness of public policies regarding sports and education. It specifically targets low-income communities to provide opportunities that can help encourage children to flourish in society, rather than enter a world of crime that is associated with areas of less societal support. So far, the school helps and educates more than 8,000 pupils.