If we are to go by the definition of Education as being the training of the mind to think, then the game of CHESS has all the ingredients of being the solitary tool to getting educated.
I have played chess for a larger part of my life and the society has now come to define me by it. I believe that my experience with the game offers me an opportunity to make meaningful contributions regarding its positives, since I hardly see how the game can have the negatives. One might perceive that as imbalance reporting but I will have to seek your absolvence in advance. As it is, I will be at pains to look for some disadvantages of playing the game of chess.
This being an educational column, I will discuss chess from the educational point of view. I am for the argument that chess and education are soul mates. Much as I am not privy to any research done locally to substantiate my view, but simple studies conducted in places like the United States and Armenia suggest that the game has more cognitive development impact on learners than all other disciplines. Inherent in the game of chess are the basic principles of psychological learning theory such as memory improvement, pattern recognition, decision making and reinforcement. Positional configurations, anticipated piece movements, diagonals, ranks and files make some deep impressions on that area of the mind which is responsible for memory. In his publishing, May 2017, John Artise emphasised this by saying that visual stimuli tends to improve memory more than any other stimuli. As chess offers that opportunity for visualization, it therefore serves well in this area. Chess is definitely an excellent memory exerciser, the effects of which are transferable to other subjects where memory is necessary.
Observation and analysis is another area where Chess comes in handy to players. A chess player is obliged to be attentive to detail and observe the whole board in recognising what is important and non-important on a 64 square play field. The effect of this conditioning of being aware of positions for long hours is also transferable to other disciplines. The most important teaching that chess offers is operant conditioning which is actually doing, observing and responding to stimuli as presented. In his observation, John Artise says ‘a player makes moves based on his/her knowledge of rules, his/her analysis and judgement. He then gets to see the results of his thought process immediately after his opponent’s move’. In this way, a chess player gets to learn
Teaching Chess in schools should not necessarily be about breeding champions but rather building character. The Armenian Education Minister (2011) said ‘taking pastime into the classrooms will help nurture a sense of responsibility and organisation among school children’. Hence Armenia invested half a million US dollars to the national chess academy to draw up a course, creative textbooks, train instructors and buy equipment. A further one million dollar was allocated to pay for furniture for chess classrooms.
The former Soviet nation has made the game part of the primary school curriculum along with such standards as Mathematics and History for children between the ages of seven and nine. Malcolm Pein, the CEO of a chess education charity also an experienced chess teacher to the underprivileged says ‘I am so convinced of the game’s broader educational benefits. I have realised that chess has the power to improve children’s lives dramatically’. His charity now helps teach chess to 25000 children in 302 state schools around the United Kingdom. The aim is to teach 30 hours of chess in the six years of primary schooling, amounting to 0.45 percent of classroom time.
Although it’s in large amount, Chess has finite moves and variations thus subjecting the game to real analysis and organised study just like music, calculus and other disciplines. Considering that in phase one, the National Curriculum Assessment Framework (NCAF June, 2017) recommends assessments only in Setswana, English, Mathematics and Science at primary school, other non-examinable curricular should be play-like activities to stimulate learners.
Chess provides that option. It is not surprising that the recommendation goes further to say ‘eventually, these four examinations will also be replaced by a comprehensive diagnostic test, that combines a measurement of the learners 21st century skills with literacy, numeracy and a varied range of thinking skills’(NCAF, 2017 page 24). Chess is doable. It allows one to plan, put the plan to action and evaluate your thought process. Like they say ‘the world does not reward those who just know, but those who actionize what they know. As an educator and chess player/coach, I strongly recommend that our children be allowed to learn whilst having some fun by playing chess.