22 April, 2024

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Chess In Schools: The Educational Powerhouse On A Checkered Board

By Kasuni Ranasinghe

Kasuni Ranasinghe

As schools strive to prepare students for the 21st-century labor market, they are increasingly turning to alternative educational programs that enhance learning abilities beyond traditional curricula. Among these innovative approaches is the ancient game of chess, recognized for developing critical skills like problem-solving, analytical thinking, and emotional intelligence. The integration of chess into school programs is not just a fad but a well-researched strategy backed by educational theories like Bloom’s taxonomy and STEM skills.

The Cognitive Benefits of Chess

Chess demands a unique set of skills, which include memory, visualization, and strategic planning. Notably, the game requires players to remember and anticipate an array of patterns and moves, fostering critical thinking and reasoning skills. These cognitive abilities align well with higher-order skills identified in revised Bloom’s taxonomy: analyzing, evaluating, and creating.

The International Chess Federation (FIDE) highlights that over 30 million children globally participate in school chess activities, with Armenia being the first country to mandate chess in its curriculum. This global trend, adopted by countries like Russia, Italy, and India, reflects a growing recognition of chess as a potent educational tool.

Research Insights on Chess and Education

Research has consistently shown that chess players exhibit enhanced cognitive abilities compared to non-players. A notable meta-analysis by Burgoyne and the team (2016) revealed that chess players possess higher fluid intelligence, processing speed, working memory, and comprehension knowledge. Further studies by Sala and her peers in 2017 suggest that these skills, especially visuospatial ability and working memory, are pivotal in academic success.

However, the crux of integrating chess into education lies in the transferability of these skills to general education. The theory of identical elements, developed by Thorndike and Woodworth, proposes two types of skill transfers: near and far. Chess, with its specialized skills, is often seen as a candidate for far transfer. Yet, this transferability, while theoretically sound, is complex and varies depending on the context and social interactions.

Chess and Socio-emotional Development

Beyond cognitive skills, chess also fosters socio-emotional development. Research indicates that chess enhances qualities like patience, discipline, and sportsmanship. These traits are crucial in personal development and can positively impact students’ academic and social lives.

Challenges and Future Directions

Despite the benefits, the transition of chess as a cognitive tool into classrooms isn’t without challenges. The key lies in understanding the extent and nature of skill transfer from chess to academic disciplines. Additionally, the potential of chess to impact broader educational outcomes needs further exploration.

Educators and researchers are examining ways to maximize the impact of chess in educational settings. This involves understanding how specific chess-related skills can be applied to academic subjects and social situations. The ideal approach would combine direct instruction in broad, transferable skills with targeted interventions, such as chess programs, to enhance specific cognitive abilities.

Conclusion

Chess, an ancient game known for its strategic depth, is proving to be a modern educational powerhouse. By fostering critical cognitive and socio-emotional skills, chess is not just a game on a checkered board but a tool that can shape young minds for the challenges of the 21st century.

*Kasuni Ranasinghe is an Educator in Perth, Australia. (Master of Education, University of Melbourne, Master of Arts in International Relations, University of Colombo and Bachelor of Arts, University of Kelaniya)

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Latest comments

  • 4
    1

    Good to see an article addressing a different topic other than the regular political pieces. There may be other games that enhance cognitive skills potentially with educational value such as Sudoku and Scrabble (latter particularly language skills). Would have been nicer if the article also encompassed such other games, giving a broader view as to how board games that enhance cognitive abilities could be integrated to mainstream educational curricula. Even the game of Snakes and Ladders is said to have originally intended to cultivate ethics and moral values among the players, an aspect today’s education happily ignore with its obsessive focus on STEM.

    • 2
      0

      Further to my first comment above I subsequently noticed that the author is first a Chess player and then an educationalist, not vice versa. Hence perhaps the focus primarily on Chess, something that I wondered, why?.
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      Additionally she also has a security background apart from international relations, and Chess being a game inspired by imperial war, at least the pieces, something perhaps she could relate to. Quite an interesting convergence of interests – Chess, National Security, International Relations and Education.
      .
      Having said that there’s a broader context in which games of various types, including computer games that are increasingly getting popular, are used for various educational and other purposes both in and out of school, including in the education of adults. A fact to consider to broaden the scope.

  • 2
    1

    I agreewith you, absolutely, Kasuni Ranasinghe.
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    Admittedly, in any game you are trying to outdo somebody else, but the way most people play such games is just for enjoyment, and the rivalry is not taken to the level of indulging in psychological warfare, and crushing the opponent.
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    We all know that too much competition is getting nastier, with the stakes being very high. I’m an old retired teacher, with children and grandchildren. I have played a little chess, without becoming a champion. I have studied a few books on it, and know that at the very top there is gamesmanship and almost warfare.
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    However, for most players, it is against themselves that they are competing – to get better at it. The way most activities are organised in schools, there is obsession with schools working with the most gifted, in an effort to be able to say that we are the greatest. The average child is ignored.
    .
    I know that Perth must be a huge city but why not get in touch with the author of this?
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/homework-for-npp/
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    I tried to submit a comment there fifteen minutes ago, and was told I was too late; comments would have just closed.
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    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/homework-for-npp/
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    I have never met the author, but we try to be constructive.
    .
    Panini Edirisinhe (NIC 483111444V) of Bandarawela.

  • 2
    0

    Thank you Kasuni. Back then, chess was a game restricted only to Europeans and a few other countries. Now it has spread all over the world making Asians and others world chess champions. Indians are very good at chess.

    https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_World_Chess_Champions

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