Football for Schools (F4S): A Transformative Initiative in Indian Education

Shri Dharmendra Pradhan attends the Kick-off programme for the distribution of Footballs under F4S in Cuttack, Odisha

In a significant stride towards integrating sports into the education system, Union Minister for Education and Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, Shri Dharmendra Pradhan, recently attended the Kick-off programme for the distribution of footballs as part of the Football for Schools (F4S) initiative in Cuttack, Odisha. This program, backed by Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), is a collaborative effort involving the Ministry of Education, the All India Football Federation (AIFF), and the Sports Authority of India (SAI).

Objective of F4S: The primary objective of the F4S program is to contribute to the education, development, and empowerment of approximately 700 million children worldwide. It seeks to make football more accessible to both boys and girls by incorporating football activities into the education system, aligning with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and other global priorities.

Distribution of Footballs in India: To implement the F4S program in India, FIFA has committed to providing more than 11 lakh footballs for distribution in schools across the country. The distribution has commenced, with the kick-off event taking place in Cuttack, Odisha. This ambitious endeavour aims to benefit over 1.50 lakh schools, with District Navodaya Vidyalaya’s serving as nodal distribution centres.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Ministry of Education, AIFF, and FIFA on October 30, 2022, formalizing the collaboration to promote football within the educational framework. Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya has been designated as the Nodal organization for the F4S program.

Key Components of the F4S Program:

  1. Digital Application and Online Learning Platform:
    • The F4S program includes a free digital application accessible through Google Play and the Apple App Store.
    • An online learning platform provides relevant content for program stakeholders, facilitating the training of coach-educators.
  2. Equipment Provision:
    • FIFA will provide equipment, including adidas footballs, which will be distributed to schools participating in the program.
  3. Financial Support:
    • Member associations (MAs) will receive a one-time payment of USD 50,000 to run the program in their respective countries.

Outcomes and Objectives: The F4S program aims to achieve four key outcomes:

  • Empower learners (boys and girls) with valuable life skills and competencies.
  • Provide coach-educators with the training to deliver sport and life-skills activities.
  • Build the capacity of stakeholders (schools, MAs, and public authorities) to deliver training in life skills through football.
  • Strengthen cooperation between governments, MAs, and participating schools to enable partnerships and intersectoral collaboration.

The program follows a results-based management framework and theory of change, emphasizing the development of intrapersonal, interpersonal, and cognitive skills among learners. This holistic approach aims to contribute to individual and community change, aligning with the identified SDGs.

Incorporating Football into Education: The F4S program recognizes schools as the most effective and efficient avenue to engage young people in sports. While FIFA supports local associations and clubs, the emphasis on schools is crucial, particularly in countries lacking an effective club structure.

The program is designed to complement educational efforts, fostering a “school of life” where football plays a vital role in holistic development. It aims to introduce the joy of playing football to students while instilling values of teamwork, discipline, and fitness.

Inclusive Approach and Gender Equality: The F4S program adopts an inclusive approach, striving to reach children and young people of all abilities and backgrounds. Coach-educators are encouraged to adapt sessions to meet the diverse needs and abilities of individual players. The program emphasizes that no child or young person should be left behind, regardless of their ability, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, language, culture, or religion.

Gender equality is a priority, with the program aiming for equal participation by boys and girls. While mixed-sex sessions are encouraged, flexibility is maintained to accommodate age groups and specific situations. The program incorporates sessions to educate players about the importance of gender equality, fostering mutual respect and tolerance.

Inclusion of Learners with Disabilities: F4S program recognizes the importance of inclusion for learners with disabilities. The inclusion spectrum and TREE framework provide coach-educators with tools to modify football activities to be inclusive for all players, considering diverse abilities.

The inclusion spectrum offers four approaches:

  • Open: No modifications needed for all players to play together successfully.
  • Modified: Modifications ensure all players receive equal attention in the activity.
  • Parallel: Participants do the activity at an appropriate level considering their needs.
  • Separate/Alternative: A different activity for players with specific needs, serving as a contingency plan.

The TREE framework (Teaching style, Rules and regulations, Environment, Equipment) serves as a guide for coach-educators to make changes that involve people of all abilities in a fully inclusive way. The program encourages coaches to consider the impact of changes on the integrity of football activities for all members of the group.

Credits: Press Information Bureau – MoE, FIFA, AIFF to make football more accessible, FIFA – F4S

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