The annual Olympic Education Forum, launched six years ago by the National Olympic Committee of Lithuania (LNOC), was particularly successful this year. The event, which was held in a virtual format for the first time, was attended by 1300 participants.
The topic of this year’s Forum was “Physical Literacy: a Different Point of View”. Educators, coaches, representatives of municipalities, sport and education sectors joined the event to listen to the presentations and discussions of internationally recognized experts.
The participants of the Forum were welcomed by the First Lady of Lithuania Diana Nausėdienė, Minister of Education, Science and Sport Jurgita Šiugždinienė, Olympic champion, LNOC President Daina Gudzinevičiūtė.
“When we speak about literacy, we usually think about reading and writing. However, physical literacy is of no less importance in an individual’s life. Fundamental movement skills, motivation and responsibility are essential to be physically active for life. Physical literacy is the key to creating a healthier society, therefore it is a question that needs to be addressed by the leaders,” said the member of the International Olympic Committee Daina Gudzinevičiūtė.
Two discussions were held during the Forum, in the course of which experts spoke about the importance of physical literacy for quality living and the environment which should be created for the development of physical literacy. The keynote speeches by local and foreign experts were rated highly by the participants of the Forum.
Dr. Kremlin Wickramasinghe, Programme Manager of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity at the World Health Organisation (WHO), spoke about the WHO programmes promoting health-enhancing physical activity in the European region.
“Physical inactivity is a risk factor for various diseases,” said Dr. Kremlin Wickramasinghe. “The incidence of non-communicable diseases is also determined by the lack of physical literacy and the associated lack of willingness to move,” the expert reminded, adding that everyone can move at home ‒ stretch their legs, exercise ‒ even nowadays when many people work and learn sitting in front of computer screens.
Mrs Rose–Marie Repond, former President of the European Physical Education Association from Switzerland, spoke about why physical literacy is important for quality development of a human being. Physical literacy requires life-long work and it is way forward.
She also highlighted the example of her country. One seemingly purely physical activity – skiing ‒ is tightly connected with other aspects of life. In Switzerland, it is both cultural, emotional and social experience, because skiing is done together with other people. She compared physical activity with the Mendeleev’s Periodic table: the connections of a physically active person with other elements are stronger, such a person may achieve more in all spheres. It is not without a reason that major global organisations have long embraced physical literacy in various projects and have been promoting it in every way.
Kevin Barton, Youth Sport Trust International trainer from Great Britain, spoke about the development of physical literacy in several stages – pre-school, primary school, and students over eleven. He was also in favour of the idea that early specialisation – directing a child to a particular sport ‒ is not a good idea, and that the child should be allowed to choose.
This was supported by Philippa Youlden, a lecturer from the United Kingdom, another representative of the Youth Sport Trust International. She distinguished three areas that are inseparable from the word “physical”: activity, education, literacy. She emphasised their importance at an extremely early age and reminded that children cannot be compared with each other, as everyone’s physical development is different. Both Philippa Youlden and other speakers reminded the listeners about the links between physical and emotional literacy.
The speaker from Lithuania Irma Liubertiene, Head of Positive Education Institute, gave a presentation on those links and in particular on emotional literacy. “Our objective is to achieve that children develop the desire to be physically active not only during lessons, but also during leisure time. So that when they grow up into adulthood they remain just as active. In order for the child to choose movement for leisure, the movement must be pleasant, it must cause pleasant emotions,” she explained.
The reasons why physical literacy is so important today were also tackled by Drew Mitchell from Canada, who is former professional athlete, coach, sports manager and who now works as a lecturer and Director of physical literacy at the Sport For Life Association.
The presentation of all the speakers had one thing in common: the emphasis on physical literacy as a necessity to be studied in the same way as languages, mathematics or other subjects. The earlier we start, the more naturally will the children acquire and develop this competency. An environment that encourages physical activity, the suitable conditions and an inspiring example of the adults around them – parents, coaches, educators ‒ is the best school to develop physical literacy.
The Olympic Education Forum is a one-day event organized by the LNOC since 2015 to discuss the innovations and themes of Olympism. The purpose of the Forum is to provide information to educators, municipal and youth workers on different education opportunities, to inspire them, to help broaden their horizons, help educators rediscover their profession or activity area.