Dr. Yohan Blondel, National Union of Sports School deputy director
Ladies and gentlemen, representatives of National Olympic Academies, dear Professor Kostas Georgiadis and my friends, I am deeply moved as I stand today on the rostrum in order to talk to you about a special Olympic education experience. I sincerely wish to thank the International Olympic Academy and, in particular, Professor Kostas Georgiadis for this invitation.
The objective of this lecture is to present to you a case study from France, within a special administrative framework and environment. Teaching Olympic values in the educational system means that you need to be aware of the system’s strengths, as well as its limitations. Despite France’s seemingly privileged situation as the birthplace of Pierre de Coubertin, it appears that the connection to Olympism and its values is very particular in our educational system. At the core of our educational system, therefore, when dealing with values that are closely related to those of the Republic, the pillar of French society, you need to develop a whole strategy in order to teach the Olympic ideals to French youth.
In fact, the French Olympic Committee has been developing for many years now an educational program that focuses on the Olympic Games and Olympism, which cannot, however, become fully integrated in the school curriculum.
So, the question that arises today is why, since about one year now, the French Minister who is responsible for Education wishes to build a program around the Olympic values? A number of answers, at different levels could be given:
a. An important and inescapable triggering factor was the city of Annecy’s bid for the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games of 2018. Unquestionably, this candidature that was presented at the highest national level, meant that different actors met, discussed and finalized an original educational project.
b. The choice of putting “a pilot in the plane.” Over and above the candidature, there was the issue of the project’s sustainability. So, who should be the interlocutor, the coordinator to be chosen among the various stakeholders (the Bidding Committee Annecy 2018, the French National Olympic Committee and the Ministry of Education)? The National School Sports Union (UNSS) that I represent today was entrusted with the coordination and development of the activities and you will see later why.
c. Original initiatives aimed at all French students, from earlier on until university, from the local to the international level.
As a result, I will be talking to you about all the problems related to a particular system and ambitious projects. I shall divide my presentation into four big areas. In the first, I will briefly present the French educational model and UNSS’ original position between the French administration (State) and Sport.
The second part will cover the general concept of the UNSS’ program, its concrete implementation, tools and educational projects.
The third will deal with the international aspects and strategies for reaching out to the French school students abroad (French schools abroad).
Finally, I will talk about the evaluation of the teaching Olympic values program.
### A Special Kind of Administration Between Sport and School
In order to help you understand the particularities of the French model, I will focus for a few moments on the administrative structure that manages educational issues. To reach French youth, you need to take into acccount an important element, the school. The vast majority of young people, 6-to-18 years old, attend school. Most of them—15 million—go to public schools. Therefore it seems quite logical that if you want to succeed in your teaching of Olympic values, the school is the primary institution on which you should rely.
Even though identifying the target is a rather easy task, reaching that same target is a rather complex matter. Indeed, the administration of the French scool system that dates back to 150 years ago, is governed by the republican principle of equal opportunities. As a result, this leads to a formalization of teaching programs at national level and to a recruitment process at national and very high academic level (master degree) for teachers. A civil service examination completes this complex procedure for the educator, also at a very high level—even for physical education and sports teachers.
Although, in the last 10 years, local management of school establishments has become a reality, centralized developmeent of the curricula and teaching material remains an important aspect of public policies in the field of education.
It is therefore difficult to imagine direct access through the curricula or the teachers’ initial training.
On the other hand, we have developed our program, building on sports practice, a special period of the student’s school life. Using this privileged opportunity of school sport, we can develop a reference framework linked to the Olympic values.
I should make it clear that school sport also has its own particularities. You will therefore easily understand why the UNSS is the main actor regarding all issues related to the teaching of Olympic values.
A student who attends lower or upper secondary school has two opportinities to practice sports: 1) during physical education classes; or 2) by joining the school’s sports association. This is the activity that is managed by UNSS. It involves organizing more than 100 sports every year, 200 national and local directors, 9,500 sports associations, 35,000 trainers who are all physical education teachers (civil servants) for a total of 1 million students under the same sports license.
Another important point is that every sport association is chaired by the head of the school and the UNSS by the Minister of Education, who also directly appoints the Directors.
On the following graph you will see that the UNSS’ administration is directly related to the administration of Education and Sports (ministry or sports movement). We are therefore in a special position that allows us to develop our own programs that simply have to follow the Minister’s guidelines and we do not have to go through the same barriers as the school curricula.
As a result, the Minister of Education has entrusted the UNSS with the coordination of educational activities that are linked to the promotion of Olympic values. More important, he has stated, through the UNSS, that the school wished to develop a comprehensive project around the ideals of the Olympic Games.
Between the School and Sport, I shall now present the strategy that allows us to efectively teach the Olympic values to school children 6-to-18 years old.
### The Olympic Values: From the Classroom to the Sports Fields, A Local and National Vision
This second part will focus on our program for teaching Olympic values. Which was the concept around which we are developing all our educational curricula? The UNSS, which is determined to develop an original educational program, obviously wishes to follow a sustainable approach in promoting the Olympic values. Its purpose is to revive the Olympic spirit and share the values it carries. In this sense, we wish to go beyond “incantations” and allow French youth to build Olympism in action.
What is “Olympism in action?” How did we develop a special methodology around this central concept? What were the requirements regarding the tools and implementation? These are the questions I shall try to answer.
It is always very difficult to formalize a very precise definition when dealing with a concept as global as Olympism. Nevertheless, this concept of “Olympism in action” refers directly to the students’ experience. To live the values of Olympism by different means contributes to a rather effective integration of these values. Sport and values thus become part of the individual’s general education. In this sense, since it is important to formalize a program in order to allow each teacher to draw from it the important elements to be included in the learning process, our methodology focused on the development of multidisciplinary educational projects that really require the student to act.
You understand that this allowed us to circumvent the difficult issue of school curricula. Indeed, every teacher, in the context of his discipline, as well as every institution is given the possibility to develop projects outside their class teaching in order to create openings in apprentice-training. To allow teachers to take such initiatives and before I present the most significant projects to you, I must tell you that a guide on the developoment of these projects is absolutely essential. In other words, we must give them the means to propose a new pedagogical approach by using Olympic values as a vehicle for education.
### The Educational Book, “Education and Olympism,” From One Pole to the Other
We had the idea of creating an educational tool that would allow us, through an interdisciplinary approach, to suggest a thought process to teachers. This book that was written and published by the Ministry of National Education, or to be specific by the Grenoble Academy (the Minister’s regional services) is aimed directly at teachers. Alongside IOC member Jean-Claude Killy, the Rector of the Grenoble Academy prefaced the book. This means that there is a clear link between the IOC’s expectations and the action at local, national and international level of the Education Ministry. This book was published in a hard copy version but what is important is that it can be downloaded free of charge. Here is the address: <http://www.federation-unss.org>.
From nursery school to higher education, the purpose is to highlight the numerous educational projects in this restricted area (a region), publicize them and make them known to other educational teams. In other words, to allow the exchange of best practices arising from local experiences and initiatives in order to extend them to all teaching teams. The involvement of school principals and teachers allowed a coherent multidisciplinary approach.
What are the book’s contents? Approximately 20 thematic data sheets designed by and for teachers. They contain a lot of illustrations thanks to the support of the Ministry of Education.
On the basis of the curricula of primary, lower and upper secondary schools, each data sheet focuses on a specific aspect of the programs. Their content remains open-ended in order to mobilize teachers as much as possible. It’s like a kind of “databank” if you will, a rather large documentary material that will allow teachers to initiate a great variety of pedagogical projects together with the students, depending on their choices, in order to raise their students’ awareness of Olympic values. I shall not go into the details. I am officially handing over this book to Professor Georgiadis and to the documentation center of the International Olympic Academy. You can either download it or consult it here.
In addition to the hard copy version, an audiovisual support has also been created consisting of films, historic pictures and animated films connected to the Olympic Games.
### The Most Important Local Projects
As the outcome of this book, here are a few original projects that I would like to present to you:
* The meeting of students with champions. 2,500 students welcomed in their classroom Olympic medalists in 2010. The athletes shared their experience and showed them their sports path. Before the visit, students worked on the champion’s discipline, the Olympic Games where he obtained his medal and prepared, down to the smallest detail, this meeting which clearly was the culmination of their work. After that, 1,500 young people went to the Olympic Museum in Lausanne in order to continue their work of discovering the champion.
* For the younger students, Olympic Youth Camps continue to be organized. This activity launched in 2006 and led by the Olympic committee that was originally intended for primary schools has gained a central role in the long term development of a comprehensive program on Olympism. Based on the principle of «mini-Olympics», several local classes are given the opportunity to build an interdisciplinary program based on sport (the practice of sports, as well as its history, physical sciences. The end-result is the staging of these games, with all the symbolic elements of the real Olympic Games (flame, opening ceremony, sports challenge, performance measurement, historic exhibition). The Olympic Youth Camps were held in March of this year in the mountain area of Carreaux d’Arraches (Haute Savoie).
* Promotion of existing events. Each year, the UNSS organizes more than 100 different sports. Our regional and departmental directors are invited to highlight sports meets using cross-cutting themes such as sports and disabled students or sports and sustainable development.
* Opening to new communication media. Through the introduction of new communication modes, the challenge is to create a social network around the Olympic Games. Called OLYNK, this network will allow young people to connect around Olympism using their communication mode and providing them with the diversity, the directness and the interactivity they expect from modern media.
### The Agreement Between the French NOC and the Ministry of Education: National Cooperation Framework
Beyond the massive distribution of the educational book throughout France, the question of its promotion at national level needs to be considered. Indeed, if we are looking for original educational projects that will contribute to the development of Olympism in action and if we wish to give regions sufficient freedom of movement for focusing essentially on local issues, the fact remains that a national framework needs to be set up in order to convey a clear message to all the parties involved.
On May 25, 2010, for the first time in the history of the French Olympic Movement and the Ministry of Education, a framework agreement was signed between the President of the French NOC and the Minister of education. Concluded for a three-year period, this agreement states in its article 1: Through this agreement, the parties shall seek to attain the following objectives: _…promote the educational and social values conveyed by sport and Olympism._ Article 2 further provides: _To this end, the parties undertake to cooperate in order (to encourage) the promotion of behaviors and values that reflect the Olympic spirit (and) contribute to the acquisition of knowledge and behavioral skills that enhance the values of Olympism._
I believe that the contents of this agreement clearly state the objectives to be attained.
Several concrete actions, directly related to this agreement were implemented, in less than a year, in many areas:
* Training young people to take on responsibilities. The UNSS has created a program called “Towards a responsible generation.” In cooperation with the French Olympic Committee, we train young people for the role of vice-president of school sport associations. At the side of the headmasters of the schools who are by right the presidents of the sport association, these students are directly involved in the governance of the association, the choices to be made regarding sports practice, projects, future development. A national commission, composed of about twenty young members, has just been created in order to lead this program.
* Agreements have been signed between certain sport federations and the Ministry of Education. This was the case, in particular, for rowing, tennis, badminton and wrestling, which have placed their know-how and their values at the service of the school. The UNSS was an important actor in this closer relationship between sport federations and the Ministry of Education.
* The creation of an Agenda 21 for school sport in connection with the challenges of sustainable development. The “classical” Agenda 21 was presented to the school world thanks to the support of the Olympic Commitee and of the Sports Ministry.
* The presence of a member of the Olympic Committee on the UNSS’ Scientific Committee who is responsible for evaluating implemented policies. I will come back to this point in the last part of my presentation on the evaluation of the educational program.
We have looked at the methodology, the agreements and concrete projects. The signing of the agreement between the French National Olympic Committee and the Ministry of Education was a real driver for us. For history’s sake, I want to underline that the UNSS’ role was pivotal in finalizing this agreement. However, Olympism in action cannot forget that a large portion of French youth lives outside the territory of France. This is why it is important to adapt the program to other countries and I will talk about that in the third part of my presentation.
### French Youth Abroad: A Priority for Our Education
In addition to local and national actions, one of our priorities is to extend this educational program to the French youth that attends school abroad. More precisely, this will allow us to promote our vision in the context of the education provided by French schools abroad, which also welcome native students of the countries.
A memorandum of understanding will be signed in the very near future between the UNSS and the Agency for French education abroad (AEFE), which is a public institution of the Foreign Ministry, for the distribution of the educational book I have presented to you. Moreover, several presentations of the book have and will be organized until the end of the year 2011 in order to mobilize the students of this network to our teaching of Olympic values.
Our international vision aims at two major directions:
* The first is to establish an international link between AEFE’s world zones and the UNSS coordinators. To put it simply, the administration of French schools abrod is divided in 16 zones around the world. Opposite these zones, we have identified 16 territories in Metropolitan France in order to animate the network at local level and so each French zone is in direct contact with its reference world zone.
What are the offers betwen the UNSS and AEFE zones?
There are three types of offer: 1) A sports practice offer, i.e. French schools abroad will be allowed to take part in the sports competitions of French schools. 2) A training offer aimed at teachers and school principals who are sometimes very far away from France. In this way we can offer expertise and generate dynamism and connections around the Olympic values. 3) A communication offer, because sport often is an important argument that determines the quality of an institution’s teaching.
* At another level, faithful to our project strategy aimed at teaching youth to live the Olympic values, we have ceated a special event, always within the framework of the MOU beween the UNSS and the AEFE, that brings together these young people and part of the students living in France. We have called it the “International Youth Games.” You understand that, on a smaller scale, these Games are directly inspired by the Youth Olympic Games. They combine sporting and cultural challenge and are open to young people 15-to-16 years old. We have chosen this age group because at this level there are no important exams at the end of the year. These International Youth Games will be held for the first time on May 25-29, 2011 in Arcachon, near the city of Bordeaux (South-West France). For this first edition we expect 400 students from the whole world [comments on the countries table].
What will these International Youth Games be like?
The week is organized in two major types of activities.
First, sports activities which we shall evaluate on the basis of Olympism. Since it is difficult to judge beforehand what will be the level of students coming from al over the world and to create a festive atmosphere that is clearly desired, the events will be held on sand. For this first edition of the Games, collective sports will be on the program. To allow teams to meet, the mini-championships will be organized at the beginning of the Games to encourage contacts. Beach handball, beach volley, beach football and beach rugby will be top of the list. After that, another period will be devoted to the presentation of the Olympic symbols. A relay race with the participation of all schools will be an opportunity to become acquainted with the itinerary of the Olympic flame during the Games. Finally, to make their stay even more pleasant, students will discover the local sports (surfing, sport rescue, as Arcachon is situated on the Atlantic coast).
Secondly, a cultural part with three activities:
* Country evenings. Each school will bring an object, food or a poster and present it to the others. In a small stand, delegations will taste the products of the region that hosts the International Youth Games. This country evening will be staged on the day of participants’ arrival who will thus have an opportunity to meet.
* Conference-debate on Olympism and international exchanges. All participants will gather in one large hall where they can interact with great French athletes, specialists of Olympism and ecology.
* Visit to the major sites of the region (tour to the aquaculture area by boat, climb of the Pyla dune and folk dances).
These Games, which represent today a very important contribution to the teaching of Olympic values within our complex system, aim to become a permanent institution. Next year, they will be staged in Nice, marking the starting point for the educational program of the Games of the Francophonie (French-speaking countries) in 2013. Following that, we shall be holding these games every two years to allow more remote schools to meet travel costs.
Regarding the prospects of the International Youth Games, we shall follow three directions:
* Extend the sports practice offer. Although team beach sports are more joyful competitions, it is true that they do not reflect the whole the essence of sport. For the next edition we shall be proposing individual activities like mini tennis for example.
* We want to enhance sports practice for girls and their commitment. For this purpose, both for the sports part and cultural activities, we shall propose special workshops focusing, in particular, on empowerment in school sports associations.
* Finally, we are aiming at establishing a link between the geographical distribution of AEFE and UNSS members. In this way, opposite to each «world zone», one or more departmental or regional directors of the UNSS will be responsible for animating, in cooperation with their AEFE counterpart, a network of cooperation and partnership. We hope in this way to be able to increase the diversity of countries attending the International Youth Games.
From the local to the international level, from the classroom to the sports field, this is our vision of an Olympism in action through the students’ life experiences.
### Evaluation of the Program
The setting up of such a complex and extensive progam as the one I have just presented to you requires an in-depth consideration of the system’s evaluation. Without going into technical details, three major evaluation modules have been implemented and they will give us their first results during 2012.
The qualitative aspect is, to a large extent, the outcome of dynamic statistical tools. Teachers feed data directly to a database throughout the year. This allows us to know how many students have been involved, the type of actions that are implemented and identify the areas that are most prominent. Combined with the cross-cutting thematic areas (sport and girls, sport and sustainable development, sport and international…), this allows us to consider a more qualitative approach to the program’s evaluation.
However, to achieve a good qualitative evaluation, we have created an independent scientific committee that monitors from outside the implementation of our policies. It is composed of 6 people who represent, in the best possible way, all he stakeholders of French school sport. In this way, academics, high level sports officials and local elected representatives are able to issue calls for projects aimed at universities, in particular. This allows us to set up high level teams that will be focusing for one year or more on the evaluation of an aspect of the teaching program seen as a priority.
Finally, the last evaluation tool for dealing, specifically, with the complex issues of French schools abroad, is the setting up of a mixed group of UNSS and AEFE people which, on the model of the scientific committee, shall evaluate in detail the activities of the world zones.
In conclusion, a few important points need to be noted as they could help in the transposition of this French program on the teaching of Olympic values at school:
* Find and use an important triggering factor. In our case, we shouldn’t deny it, the candidature of Annecy 2018 is a great opportunity to convince people.
* Find and formalize a concept. In our case, taking into account the specificities of the French model, we have clearly opted for capitalizing on experience. Educational projects that involve students from the local to the international level allow me to defend this concept of Olympism in action.
* Take into account the increased diversity of the target audience. It is true that we remained focused mainly on school youths. This choice was dictated by our status as a sports Federation of National Education and the number of young people we want to reach. However, the inclusion of French schools abroad had never been attempted, until then, by any program for the teaching of Olympic values.
* Develop a sustainable program that will continue for many years. In this way, integration at local level (teachers, departmental and regional directors) will allow a broad variety of initiatives and ongoing activities.
Finally, the few reactions we received from the IOC clearly indicated that we had responded to most of their expectations. Regarding this last point, you understand of course that UNSS is ready to assist Olympic Academies, National Olympic Committees and the countries to develop programs for teaching Olympic values in a system as complex as the French system.