Learning is like a game of chess
I still remember the day our father walked in with a package under his arm that turned out to be a chess game. I also remember warm sunny afternoons, sitting around the coffee-table; the living room dimmed and cool. And our father patiently teaching us how to play chess.
He’d finally found a new way to relate to his two daughters. We’d become too old to wrestle with or play Cowboys & Indians. A game of chess was a perfect alternative. That is, until we started beating him at it. Especially my sister; she’d quickly become a very good player.
So our father, competitive as he was, would sit there sulking, while we smirked. Again a child, barely eleven years old, had beaten him at another game of chess. Ae fond memories…
Chess as an educational tool
The BBC’s item centred around the charity project of Malcolm Pein —a former International Chess Master. The project, Chess in Schools & Communities, strives to engage children at a very young age in the game. The idea is moulded on how it’s done in countries like Armenia.
A recent BBC article tells how chess has been successfully embedded in the country’s culture. The article cites proponents claiming evidence to the game boosting children’s development and education. They state that a game of chess:
- improves test scores and reading performance;
- raises IQ scores and strengthen problem solving skills;
- enhances concentration, memory and calculation;
- fosters creative thinking;
- teaches discipline and social skills.
Pein stresses that in addition, chess is relatively cheap. Making it ideal to be issued to children in economically disadvantaged areas.
Chess in the digital era
By chance, the Dutch news also featured children and games this week. The difference being that they concentrated on youngsters becoming addicted to online gaming and possible negative consequences like seclusion and depression.
In a digital era, where we discuss such issues and whether or not to use Facebook and Twitter in the classroom; it seems off to propagate chess —a 1500 year old game— as part of the curriculum. Or as one tweeter put it:
But there are also tweeters, who like Pein, believe in the many gains of chess being taught at primary schools to young children:
As for myself, looking back I’m inclined to believe that both my sister and I benefitted from our father teaching us to play the game. I may not have incorporated all the positive skills —then again I’m a moderate player; yet I can pretty well hold my own in the analytical department.
As for my sister; she is one of the most intelligent women I know. A well-disciplined and focussed strategic thinker and very adaptive. I’ve never witnessed anyone with the ability to self-educate the way she can.
Should chess be taught at schools? Yes. I’m all for it. Should it be compulsory? I’m not so sure. There’s no blueprint here. Every school’s different. With its own rich or meagre resources. Every child’s different. Chess may work for some; but not for others.
When you come to think of it, learning itself is like a game of chess. Always moving; always changing. The essence is capturing the right learning strategy that fits a particular learning situation: be it school or a group of children.
What do you think? Will making chess compulsory in schools foster children’s intellectual development and improve their critical thinking skills?
(Source image used: BenJTsunami)
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