While academics are always at the forefront of every parent’s mind during their child’s school years, there are many other important factors to consider when choosing a school and curriculum.
This could include what extra-curricular activities are on offer or what languages are taught, but more often than not, parents are interested to know about what sports are on offer and what the facilities are like.
A pertinent question to ask is whether athletes make better students? The answer is a positive one. University students who competed on national and international levels learn how to manage their time very well due to needing to keep their grades up and maintaining their place on teams. This requires discipline, ambition and plain old hard work, which are all excellent habits to have throughout life.
An integrated study carried out by BUCS (British Universities Colleges Sports), the governing body for sports in universities in the UK, offered some very positive information based on the impact of sport on graduate employability.
For example, graduates who were active in sports during their studies brought with them qualities like healthy competitiveness, motivation, communication skills and the ability to work within a team – all sought after by employers.
This brings us back to the fact that one of the biggest advantages of an international school education is the emphasis on physical education and games classes, and extracurricular sports activities.
Start Them Young
From the age of six, children are physically and psychologically ready to participate in team sports like football and rugby. The fact is that being active and involved in any sport makes students happier, more academically inclined, able to socialise better and are healthier; which is incredibly important especially now when childhood obesity, depression and anxiety are very real problems.
Physical education classes and school sports are an integral part of an international school education. As Ian Ward, Director of Sport at The Alice Smith School, said: “School sport is a hugely popular and important part of school life here, both for students, parents and the wider school community."
"We trust in the concept of ‘sport for all’ and through our extensive programme of extra-curricular activities, competitive sport and recreational sports clubs, we are able to reinforce happier, healthier, engaged students.”
Not every child is naturally sporty but most children enjoy running around and kicking a ball with their classmates. The basis of team and school spirit begins on school playing fields, and this is also where the younger child learns the fundamentals of sportsmanship, which is aptly defined as ‘fair play, respect for opponents and gracious behaviour in winning and losing’; and is a lesson for life in general.
Students who have a natural talent for a sport usually have a good chance of being spotted at school especially if they actively participate from a young age.
The Many Benefits
The age of high academic scores being the primary focus are over. International schools everywhere are very much in tune with educational trends and what universities and future employers are looking for.
The majority of parents realise that with an ever-changing economy and job market, straight As are always welcome but to have a real advantage to get into a preferred university or college, being active in any sport does look good on the application.
Long-term advantages aside, the immediate benefits of school sports are obvious. One of the most important is simply to keep fit and healthy. The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that childhood obesity is one of the biggest public health challenges of our time, and as drastic as that sounds, it’s a real problem. It’s a common assumption that only children of a certain strata of society suffer from this, but obesity and being unfit is seen across the board.
The principal benefits of being involved in sports include improving self-esteem and confidence, instilling discipline, relieving stress and enhancing a child’s mood.
If that isn’t enough to convince you, studies have proven that there’s a direct link between participation in school sports and academic attainment, better relationships with peers and parents and future job success; particularly for secondary school students.
International School Sports
International schools the world over serve not only expatriate communities but a rapidly growing number of resident families who want their children to have an education that is global and will open doors later in life.
As Ian Ward states: “Sport, in particular team sport, is a great way for students to bond and form close friendships quickly in an environment where children can come and go more frequently."
"In the absence of family, friendships are even more powerful in an international school, and the significance that sport plays in helping build these friendships and feeling part of a team is a hugely important one. It also serves as a social and network support for many parents who are actively involved in school sports, creating a very special school community.”
British international schools follow a ‘house’ system which each child is assigned when they begin school. Through this, healthy competition is encouraged through sports events that are held throughout the year.
School teams also regularly participate in local, national and regional tournaments, leagues and meets in athletics, cross-country, football, rugby, swimming, netball and basketball.
Schools belong to three organisations – ISAC (International Schools Athletic Conference), SEASAC (South East Asia Schools Athletic Conference) and FOBISIA (Federation of British International Schools in Asia) – which hold regular sporting events.
Another advantage of being involved in school sports is that players and athletes learn from a young age how to be part of a team, how to be independent and realise the importance of being fit and healthy.
It also keeps children on the straight and narrow in an age of over exposure to electronic devices. Excellent sporting facilities and committed teachers and coaches are another plus point, which is another reason why parents opt for international schools.
To summarise, sports is an essential part of school life even if your child isn’t a natural athlete. Besides all the usual advantages, perhaps the most important thing to remember is that when they’re out on a field or in the pool, they’re having fun with their classmates and bonding. And what’s the point of a great education if all students do is just study and aim for perfect grades?