José Reinaldo Lopes da Silva recently appeared on Brazilian news to share his inspiring life story. After 19 years of study, he turned around his life and graduated as a medical doctor despite the odds. His take-home message? Keep reading until the end of the article.
In a different land, in Strasbourg, Dr John Dickinson, James Hogg and I performed a series of educational and practical workshops in English as part of the Inside Sports Science initiative.
We taught avid French school-children how simple solutions can be used to design home-made sports drinks; how talents might be detected in early stages of sports development, and how science has been used to bring forth the ultimate performance gain.
They also exercised to see how their bodies responded to pre- and post-effort. For this purpose, they measured their heart rate and oxygen saturation level in their blood.
SCHOOL AFTER SCHOOL, A FEW POINTS BROUGHT MY ATTENTION AND ARE WORTH MENTIONING.
First, the politeness of most students. Our practice was quite positive compared with previous workshops in England and a few projects I participated in the country I come from: Brazil. My conclusion is that schools and especially parents are doing their jobs well.
The students had for the most part a good level of English. Those who struggled were not shy to ask their friends for help or else they improvised with gestures or any other means for effective communication. Again, schools must be doing it right, as far as English language teaching is concerned.
My attention was also drawn by the school facilities and their pedagogical equipment. Everything worked so well - we couldn't have executed our workshops in better conditions. There was a good amount of space, good multimedia apparatus and an excellent provision of consumables. I assign a ‘triple-plus A’ to the French schools I visited.
We had a delightful experience sharing our knowledge with the support of the enthusiastic teachers. Perhaps, this is the most valuable resource French should be proud of. A legacy from the Age of Enlightenment?
A country is made by its people. A nation that values knowledge and education as part of its culture is certainly going show up in the spotlights of a globalised world.
Hopefully, the children and teenagers we had contact with will perpetuate this legacy, increasing the power of this knowledge chain.
WHAT'S THE LINK WITH JOSÉ REINALDO?
At this point, you might wonder why I refer to José Reinaldo in my introduction.
In many developing countries like Brazil, most of the population do not have access to educational opportunities like Science in Schools, let alone the chance to learn an international language such as English.
In every school, I spoke to the children about my English learning experience, and how it opened up so many doors to me.
I may not have been as determined to chase my dreams if I had had to confront the same harsh conditions overcome by José Reinaldo. He had to sacrifice food to pursue his studies for example. Nevertheless, with the right conditions, I firmly believe every single person in the world is able to excel when it comes to acquiring knowledge.
More than spreading science knowledge, these workshops also have a social impact. Learners realise how the English language could make them smarter, versatile and capable of reaching new horizons. There is no bigger motivation to learn than the conceptualisation of something's value or usefulness. This is what education is all about.
If France is able to provide such opportunities to its pupils, then, it is just a case of following José Reinaldo’s wisdom. In the words of his take-home message:
“Set a goal and pursue it, never give up. While there is life, there is hope”.
These workshops were made possible through the Science in Schools Programme which is run by the British Council, in partnership on this occasion with Strasbourg's local education authority (Académie de Strasbourg). The aim of the programme is to expose the young generation to innovative science and researcher, as well as raise their awareness of the importance of learning languages and using them in real-life situations.