Argentina's schools to show World Cup in the classroom

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Children in parts of football-mad Argentina will have no excuse for playing truant when the World Cup kicks off in June.

Authorities in some provinces are letting them watch their national team's matches on television in the classroom.

The decision by officials in the capital, Buenos Aires, and the provinces of Cordoba and Mendoza in the centre and west of the country will allow high-school children to tune in as Argentina bid for a third World Cup triumph.

"It's just common sense," said Amelia Lopez, the education minister in Cordoba, who oversaw the measure. "Kids in this country get very distracted by the World Cup. What was the choice? To encourage them to miss school?"

Argentina's education ministry has even published a 47-page booklet to help teachers to plan lessons around the World Cup fixtures over the coming months.

Argentina are drawn in Group C. They play their first match against Ivory Coast on 10 June, and will also meet Serbia and Montenegro and the Netherlands.

Although the country virtually grinds to a halt for the World Cup, the establishment newspaper Clarin said the decision to allow the schools to show matches at their discretion during class time was a disgrace.

"It implies putting a sporting event ahead of history, geography or maths. It is tacitly devaluing formal education for as long as Argentina remain in the World Cup," the paper said.

Emma Cunietti, an education minister in Mendoza, said World Cup truancy was a big problem and "football shouldn't be a threat for schools".

Argentina's Education Minister, Daniel Filmus, said schools "can't ignore an event that is so important to people".

"I don't think there's anything wrong with turning on a television in a classroom or in a playground to watch a match together. It can be a very enriching experience," he said.

He also proposed that schools should use the World Cup finals as a teaching tool.

Jose Maria Tessa, a leader of the Argentine teachers' union CTERA, agreed, saying the World Cup could bring geography and history lessons alive, and be used as a springboard to discuss international relations and social customs in different countries. Goal averages, points and rankings could even help with maths.

"I think the idea's spot on, starting from the fact that it will encourage all kids to go to school," he said.