Ljubljana – The Slovenian Olympic Committee (OKS) is working to adapt the Slovenian education system to top athletes as part of the Double Career project, including by certifying educational institutions, which is also supported by the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport. In doing so, Slovenia would set new international benchmarks.
The basic idea of the project is that educational institutions receive an Athlete Friendly Education certificate for their efforts to create an athlete-friendly educational environment.
The initiator of the project was the most successful Slovenian Olympian of the modern era, rower Iztok Čop. “The basic idea was to extend the opportunities already offered to young athletes by grammar school departments to other institutions,” he said.
The Double Career project foresees an upgrade of the current arrangements, which are based on categorisation and awarding an athlete status to students.
In 2017, 58 educational institutions responded to the first call in the Double Career education project and were certified through a two-phase approach. This year, 1613 athletes at secondary school level and 1353 at university level are involved.
Mojca Doupona, the director of the Directorate for Sport at the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, also praised the project, but pointed out the need for coordination so that the ministry could formally participate in the certification process.
“After the pilot project in Radovljica, interest exceeded expectations and we developed the project further. But although there is a lot of enthusiasm, the activity of the mentors is still too limited to a voluntary level,” added Čop.
At the same time, he pointed to the importance of linking up with foreign countries and of incentives on the labour market, where athletes could gain work experience during their careers and get to know potential employers.
The Faculty of Organisational Sciences in Kranj was one of the first faculties to join the project. “Many top athletes have studied here, including four Olympic medal winners from the Sochi Games,” said the faculty’s former dean, Marko Ferjan.
The Faculty of Economics in Ljubljana has also been very successful in encouraging and helping athletes during their studies, and is one of the leading institutions in the region in this aspect.
“I believe it is important that any adjustments should not affect knowledge,” said Rožle Prezelj, an Olympian and athlete who recently completed his PhD at the Ljubljana Faculty of Law.
He also stressed the importance of adapting the education system to the athletes, while putting the role of educators and the human factor first, as Prezelj believes that cannot be replaced by certificates and rules.
Clear criteria on what an athlete can expect in further education can be important for athletes when choosing their secondary school or university, while it can also benefit clubs and coaches.