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How India's youth can be empowered through Olympic Values Education

The Abhinav Bindra Foundation Trust (ABFT) discusses how including OVEP in the curriculum can empower the Indian youth and imbibe them with Olympic values.

Panellists Xenia Kourgouzova  Shaheen Mistri Abhinav Bindra

Panellists Xenia Kourgouzova (left-most) and Shaheen Mistri (right-most) with Abhinav Bindra


Sohinee Basu

Updated: 24 Sep 2021 5:28 PM GMT

The adage 'all work and no play' makes a certain individual dull may be running its time but there is no doubt that the necessity of 'playing' as cited in above-stated proverb holds more true than ever now. In a pandemic-stricken world, where exploring physical activities like before have taken a subdued backseat, there are problems on the rise, especially those concerning the youth and their reduced hours of physical activity.

In the wake of such issues, The Abhinav Bindra Foundation Trust (ABFT) , in partnership with the Olympic Studies Center, German Sports University Cologne, hosted their second educative webinar on 'Olympism and its values' and focused on how education can be used as a fundamental tool to inculcate the key threefold values of Olympism - respect, friendship and excellence among the youth of India and use it to empower them.

Broaching the topic of 'Olympic Values Education - An opportunity to empower Young Indians', the webinar organized by the ABFT saw a reputed set of panellists along with India's very first individual gold medallist, Abhinav Bindra, voice their opinions on the pertaining issue concerning the education of the youth and how it can be enriched with Olympic Values Education Programme (OVEP).

ABFT organised webinar on the need for OVEP in empowering the youth of India

The keynote speaker of the session was Xenia Kourgouzova, the Senior Education Manager at the Olympic Foundation and the International Olympic Committee Lead of the Olympic Value Education Programme, who introduced the fundamentals of OVEP to the audience. Joining Xenia on the panel was Shaheen Mistri, the CEO of Teach for India, Anil Sachdev, Founder and CEO, Grow Talent Company Limited and the School of Inspired Leadership (SOIL) and Dr. Marion Keim, Member of International Olympic Committee Education Commission, President - Pierre de Coubertin Committee, South Africa. The session was ably moderated by Sudha Sastri, advisor to the ABFT.

Having dedicated 22 years of his life in the pursuit of medals and glory in competitive sports, Abhinav Bindra now looks back at his career in a dispassionate manner - the medals that hang on his wall are mere pieces of metal now. Instead, what Bindra has retained and cherishes the most from his days as an Olympic athlete, are the values of sport and what the spirit of Olympism has taught him.

Abhinav Bindra

While the Olympic values drive you towards excellence and winning, they also teach you to deal with loss, build friendships, nurture relationships with fellow athletes, coaches, and so much more. Implementing values that Olympism preaches in our day to day lives is therefore a wise call and the OVEP through its holistic approach and flexible structure provides a pathway for the youth to get engaged in such values and help in the nation-building process and pave the way for India to be stronger and healthier nation.

In India, the classrooms have been gathering dust for the last 18 months, the benches abandoned and the unmowed grass has overgrown itself on the playground, hungry for the scamper of feet, the dust kicked off the soil and the feel of the dribble of the ball. Shifting spaces quite literally from the physical to the virtual, a drastic change has come about in the education structure as we knew it and the biggest toll has occurred with regards to the physical health of the child, now restricted mostly to the four walls of the house.

Dissecting and deliberating on the challenges that lie ahead, the group of esteemed panellists laid down the need for OVEP to be integrated in the regular education curriculum and finding ways to make the youth take more responsibility for what they believe in and helping them grow up to be better human beings, replete with values and a positive frame of mind.

The correlation between physical and mental health - the role of OVEP

The values of OVEP

Dispelling myths regarding OVEP needing a lot of funds, a gigantic workforce or a grand infrastructure to see it being implemented in the curriculum, Xenia Kourgouzova debunked such notions and encouraged educators to explore the OVEP toolkit that is readily accessible as well as culturally adaptable too.

At the fulcrum of OVEP lies the zeal to involve the whole body in the learning process and foster a lifelong love for sports and physical activity and through the values that OVEP preaches, learning to grow and change oneself accordingly. Xenia believes that learning isn't about memorising as much as it is about being able to grow, respect and build relationships. In studies conducted by the Olympic Foundation, it shows that children who are involved in sports tend to lead a calmer life and are less prone to getting depressed and perform better in academics than those who aren't active.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made things worse and one of the sharpest indicators of its effects can be seen in the spike in the obesity rate which has gone up 3% in the last one and a half years. As alarming as this piece of data is, it also suggests the need for immediate action and OVEP can be the easy answer to remedy this gnawing issue.

A lot of nations, especially small ones like Lithuania, Cambodia have included OVEP as a part of their national curriculum and the results have been impressive, as well. With OVEP and its digital nature, the inclusion of youth is much more simple now and it points towards a healthier tomorrow. With its ever-blending structure, OVEP's toolkit understands the correlation between mental and physical health of a child and the need for it to work in tandem so that the child can grow properly and be on the path of empowerment.

The 'Be the change you want to see' mantra

Xenia Kourgouzova (top left), Sudha Sastri (top right), Shaheen Mistri (middle left), Anil Sachdev (middle right), Marion Keim (bottom left) and Abhinav Bindra (bottom right) at the webinar

Focusing more on the need to inculcate the values of Olympism that OVEP departs rather than excelling as a sportspersons, all panellists unanimously agreed and mentioned anecdotes on how having values in their life has helped them on their different journeys.

Shaheen Mistri, who grew up in a Parsi family, recalled the principles her father instilled in her of always thinking good thoughts, speaking good words and doing good deeds - which helped her evaluate herself at junctures and live by the values she preaches as an educator. Shaheen admits it isn't an easy job and it can get quite messy but the founder of Teach for India firmly believes that an educator should have the vulnerability and authenticity in the classroom in front of the students and not assume a pedestal. Only when a teacher is relatable and invites the students to be co-partners in the journey and share the values they jointly believe in, can there be proper learning and subsequent growth.

On the other hand, Anil Sachdev, whose father was a part of the Indian Army was inspired from an early age seeing the disciplined, value-enriched life the army people lead. The tendency of the army to work as a family, with a sense of oneness reached out to Sachdev at an young age and he continues to look forward to a value-based mode of education for the youth rather than one based solely on merit. Helming several roles, Sachdev recalled his time in Japan when he saw how certain toys for children were deliberately made heavy so that it couldn't be lifted by a single person and would automatically involve group-work and therefore, push the children towards learning the values of teamwork.

Dr. Marion Keim, believes that education of values is actually the education of the heart and sports, through its very nature, comes laden with values. For Keim, it isn't important to be a star athlete as much as it is necessary to integrate the sporting values and head towards being a better individual, create change and impact the world with wise, sustainable actions.

While Shaheen harps on the need for the educator to set the example first and let others follow suit and being the change we so desire, Anil is curious about what the youth dream of and wants them to take more responsibility of their dreams and lead a value-oriented life, and Marion believes that the inclusion of OVEP in the sports policy will be a big boon as sports has all the ingredients to compose a great individual through its values.

The need for a dialogue and welcoming children as co-partners

It is important to practice what you preach as an educator and welcome children as co-partners

Often we tend to work on assumptions rather than asking the parties involved about what they would actually want. When it comes to the children and the youth of the nation, instead of involving them in the process that directly concerns them, we work with a peripheral vision - which is erroneous and often, half-successful to say the least.

Pointing this out keenly, Shaheen urged on involving children in the process and making them co-partners so that they too can know what it is that is being done and are aware about the need for it. Instead of assuming the 'parental' role, if we let our children also voice their opinions, change will only be a stone's throw away. Instead of having a one-way traffic in education or a top-down structure, it is only wise that a dialogue is initiated between teachers, students and parents as well, that would help nurture the joint vision well.

Achieving the goals of OVEP in India is definitely a challenge given the existing education system, but Anil Sachdev believes in pilot projects and Shaheen also joins his chorus and suggests taking the first plunge, however small it may be, towards adopting OVEP. Instead of mandating OVEP, Shaheen is of the party who wants to show how OVEP is linked to the goals we want to achieve first and garnering the automatic attention of people.

The biggest tool as well as resource at disposal for India are its large body of students. Involving the students in the process, making them co-creators and co-partners will greatly accelerate the pace of the change that OVEP is trying to initiate. Xenia, also twins with the thoughts of the other panellists and encourages educators to connect with other people who have successfully implemented OVEP in other NOC's and focus on the opportunities at hand rather than obsess over the challenges on the horizon.

Armed with a positive attitude, the doors of change can be knocked upon and it will open - but it is important to begin first, take that first step towards empowering the youth, being the example of what you preach as well as practice. Only with values of Olympism coursing through the veins of the youth can there be a tomorrow which is pleasantly different from the one we know right now and India can wake up to a new and healthier dawn, empowered by the values dispersed through the OVEP.

[The Bridge, which is a dedicated platform for the regular coverage of Olympic sports, is the exclusive media partner of the Abhinav Bindra Foundation whose philosophy twins with promoting the Olympic spirit among people and encouraging the growth of the nation through sports.]

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