Every four years the Olympic Games bring people of different nationalities together to compete in sport. Do you think learning could also bring people of different cultures together? In Israel, the British Council are helping people from very different cultures connect with each other to learn about English and the Olympic Games.
On top of two hills near the Mediterranean coast in Israel is the town of Fureidis and just a few miles away is the town of Zichron Ya’acov. For a long time people in the two towns haven’t really communicated with each other. They speak different languages and have different religions and cultures. Fureidis is an Arab town and Zichron Ya’acov is Jewish.
How did it start?
In 2009, the British Council ran classes for children from both towns so they could come together and learn English. They called the programme ‘English Together’ and the classes were really successful. In 2011, one year before the Olympic Games in London, the British Council decided to run the course again. This time they used the Games and English as the two main themes.
The course was a week long and 22 children from schools in both towns took part. Classes were mixed with Arab and Jewish children working and communicating together in English about sport. The children learned about the Olympic logo, the history of the Olympics, took part in sports, drew pictures, sang songs and even had a game of cricket. ‘The values of the Olympics are respect, friendship and excellence,’ says Nicola Crowley who works for the British Council. ‘These are the values we tried to teach the kids, we taught them how to be friends together, how to respect each other and how to excel in English and their lives.’
Because they are from different cultures and communities, many of the children might never have met if it wasn’t for ‘English Together’. The course allowed Arab and Jewish children to learn about each other as well as about the Olympics. ‘I was very surprised to see the children speak together and see their parents come together,’ said the headmaster of the school, Majd Darwasha. The students also said that they enjoyed ‘playing together’ and ‘cooperating with each other’.
We are the champions! What’s happening next?
At the end of the course children learned to sing a very famous song called ‘We are the Champions’. ‘The best part of the whole week for me, as their teacher’ said Jo Stewart ‘was when the girls decided that a one-week course was not enough time for them and their new friends to spend together. They voluntarily decided to draw up a contact sheet so that all of the children can meet up again.’
Watch the video above.