It was announced during the World Academy of Sport (WAoS) session at the IB Global Conference in Vienna last week that student-athletes at IB World Schools will be supported in their dual career aspirations to balance sport and education concurrently.
The success of a three-year pilot project has seen 22 IB World Schools receiving accreditation as WAoS Athlete Friendly Education Centres (AFECs) and the official ‘green light’ from WAoS and the IB to move forward from the pilot phase. IB World Schools offering the IB Diploma Programme (DP) that are accredited by the WAoS can now apply for an extended three-year DP for those students who want to follow an athletics pathway concurrently with their DP studies.
There are close to 1,200 student-athletes across the 22 AFEC-accredited schools, with some 100 student-athletes currently following an extended period of study. Research from early 2018 showed that both schools and student-athletes have benefitted from the project, and many student-athletes would not have chosen the DP had it not provided the flexibility.
Adrian Kearney, Director of IB World Schools, says: “This exciting news is the result of a long-standing partnership between the WAoS and the IB. The IB has recognized the importance of supporting our schools to increase access to the DP for those students who are strongly committed to sporting endeavours. The WAoS has been an avid partner in both highlighting the issue to us and working through many options on how we can work in partnership to continually evolve our structures and support such an important principle. Having delivered a successful pilot project since 2015, we now can see the positive impact on many student-athletes and participating schools around the world. It is therefore appropriate that today we can announce that the project has been formalized whereby schools and student-athletes that fulfil the criteria can access flexible options for completing the DP over an extended period. This model will be taken forward with WAoS to firmly establish the DP as the global standard in high school education around the world for student-athletes maintaining a dual career.”
Stuart Bryan, Principal at Amman Baccalaureate School (ABS) in Jordan, one of the initial pilot schools and recently reaccredited as a World Academy of Sport accredited AFEC, comments: “ABS is very proud to be an ‘athlete friendly’ school. The vision and principles of the initiative fits well within the school’s own holistic approach to educating and nurturing all its students. This approval to move from a pilot project means that the school can seamlessly continue supporting student-athletes now and in the future. This news can only benefit our community as a whole and we at ABS are proud to have been able to participate in this latest innovation for international education.”
Amro Al-Wir, an athlete and student at ABS, currently completing the DP over three years comments on what it was like attending an ‘athlete friendly’ school: “It means a lot as it makes it easier to complete classes without affecting my training. ABS and all the teachers understand my needs as an athlete providing flexibility to support my academic achievement. Many people like my in-school mentor, counsellor and coaches support me at all times.”
Eleven student-athletes at the last count from AFEC schools are attending the Youth Olympic Games (YOG), taking place 6 – 18 October 2018. It is envisioned that the number of AFEC schools and more importantly recognized student-athletes in the coming years will grow exponentially now that such strong foundations have been built across the project partners. Schools, parents and student-athletes can now make more flexible choices to better balance sport and education.
Chris Solly, Director of WAoS, states: “One of the core reasons for establishing the World Academy of Sport was to identify ways that global sport could better support athletes and allow them to achieve success both on and off the field of play. For 14 years we have worked tirelessly with the IB to bring this important project to fruition and it is a credit to the many people who have been involved, including our partner International Sporting Federations, education institutions and the City of Manchester, that we have achieved this announcement today. Student-athletes, parents and schools have taken a leap of faith with us in recent years through the pilot phase knowing that this is the right thing to do. Now we are moving to the next stage so that we may work towards eradicating the issue of athletes having to make sacrifices that may negatively impact them in the long term. The future is certainly bright for our young student-athletes and we foresee project alumni competing in many international sporting competitions in the years to come whilst keeping a strong focus on their long-term career aspirations.”