Whenever I begin introducing the Global Team and our mission of using soccer to provide access to primary education, I am met with a range of questions. How can sport impact academic performance? How could sport be used to provide education? How does sport support or enhance educational outcomes?
Given the current state of education in America, and indeed across the world, of cutting physical education, reducing the number of after school sport activities and programs, this is a good question to ask.
The answer is multi-fold.
First and foremost, sport encourages active, healthy lifestyles. As highlighted by the First Lady’s Lets Move! initiative, the Surgeon General recommends that children should engage in 60 minutes of moderate activity. With one-third of American youth being overweight or obese (as referenced by Active Living Research) the downsizing of physical education in schools has a direct effect on efforts to reduce this growing statistic. Now, the argument to the reduction in physical education in the classrooms seems to be correlated to the ‘China-effect’. As nations compete and indeed surpass the educational level of American students, we are constantly chasing the top educational model. Conventional thinking then lends to more classroom-based education, and less extracurricular classes. This is only exacerbated with the budget crisis facing many of our schools. As budgets are downsized, and the focus goes towards more classroom hours, physical education faces the chopping block.
The ‘No Impact’ Argument
What if I told you that five controlled experimental studies – in the United States, Canada and Australia – clearly demonstrate that students who are in physical education have the same standardized test scores as those who attended an educational course in exchange of the physical education class. For example, in 2006 a study was conducted of 214 sixth grade students from Michigan. It was found that those students who were enrolled in PE had similar grades and standardized test scores as student wer were not enrolled in PE, even though they received 55 minutes more of classroom instruction ( Effect of physical education and activity levels on academic achievement in children, Pivarnik).
The ‘Advanced Impact’ Argument
Now the argument that the Global Team uses to support part of our belief in the power of sport to provide education is that sport enhances educational attainment of students. In the past 49 years, eleven studies have found that regular participation in physical activity is associated with improved academic performance.
“A national study conducted in 2006 analyzed data collected from 11,957 adolescents across the U.S. to examine the relationship between physical activity and academic performance. Adolescents who reported either participating in school activities, such as PE and team sports, or playing sports with their parents, were 20 percent more likely than their sedentary peers to earn an “A” in math or English” (Active Living Research). Why, or how? The best answer is that regular physical activity has been shown to improve cognitive performance and on-task behaviour. For example, a study was conducted in Georgia on 43 fourth-grade students in 1998. This study highlighted that students were significantly more on-task on days with a scheduled activity break than days without (Impact of Recess on Classroom Behavior, Maxwell)
the Global Team
Now, this is only a part of why we at the Global Team believe that sport has a unique way to provide education to the world’s youth and why we believe that sport can not only provide education when traditional education is non-existent or lacking, but that it indeed enhances education.
We hope you continue to think about and reflect on the power of education through sport. Next we will talk more about the unique model that we use to provide our education, using the traditional learning model of soccer.
Photo Credit: Twenty Ten / Africa Media Online