Football players or education entrepreneurs?

Education and football: map designed by Graduate XXI based on PISA results

Education and football: map designed by Graduate XXI based on PISA results

 Are you a football fan? Did your national team qualify for the World Cup? If your country is not among the top performers in the PISA test, you are more likely to win the World Cup. Among the 10 top performers, only four made it to Brazil (South Korea, Japan, Switzerland and the Netherlands) and only two qualified for the second round (Switzerland and the Netherlands).

So, does your country have to be bad at education to be good at football? GRADUATE XXI, an initiative to prevent students from not completing secondary school from  El Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo, turned this question into a map showing an adverse correlation between education levels and World Cup results. For many months, massive demonstrations in Brazil were organised against the World Cup, demanding “more education and less football”. It was not so much against football than against the money spent in building stadiums and not schools.

A recent article seems to advocate for a different correlation between football and education. Costa Rica, which surprisingly qualified for this year’s quarter finals, claims that 60% of its football players have completed their secondary education. According to one of the players, Celso Borges, education is one of the reasons for the team’s success: “We – football players – have to process and transmit the information we receive. The more you study, the more you learn to analyse things, understand processes and instructions. Education is essential to be a football player.”

Could the success of Costa Rica in the World Cup contribute to improving education levels? Even though the country scored the 4th highest points total among Latin American countries in PISA, it still lags far behind the average, occupying the 56th position out of the 65 participating countries in the study.

How can success in football inspire a whole country to learn more and innovate? How can Mr Borges be perceived not only as an excellent football player, but also as an education entrepreneur? This is certainly a challenge for the newly elected President Luis Guillermo Solís and his Minister of Education, Dr Sonia Marta Mora.

So far, Mrs Mora has authorised schools to suspend classes while the “sele” play, and suggested that teachers should develop pedagogical activities linked to citizenship education, national identity, cultural diversity… Football still comes first! But what comes next? What will happen if Costa Rica wins the World Cup, or indeed loses a game ? Can we learn from success and failure in football to innovate in school?

Let’s build a startup culture using the World Cup experiences of Costa Rica and elsewhere. Entrepreneurship culture is based on efforts and failures which entrepreneurs turn into new projects and future successes. The same should happen with football players and football fans: learning from both success and defeat to improve and innovate.

Let’s be inspired by the football players, not so much for their football abilities but for their entrepreneurial skills.

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