Modern Perspectives on Chess & Education
Fool’s Gold ?
The idea of having chess taught in school is wonderful, but in practice its implementation is fraught with bureauocratic nightmares, legitimate parental concerns and bitter battles with competing, equally worthy (extra)curricular activities over funding.
When the European Parliament, in 2012, passed a resolution recommending that European member states encourage the teaching of chess in schools, it deliberately made the resolution non-binding and did not provide for any concrete global funding mechanism. Someone has to pay for the teaching of chess in school, or it is all a dream.
Fast forward to 2019, the facts are that while there are individual success stories for including chess in schools, sometimes as an extra-cirricular subject, sometimes as an enrichment class and sometimes as part of a mandatory subject (Armenia, which I will write about more later), teaching chess in schools remains more of a curiosity than anything else.
The new FIDE president, Arkady Dvorkovich, has stated that chess in schools is one of his big priorities. He has not given any details on exactly how he intends to proceed, and I suspect his sphere of influence will be limited to just a few countries.
Chess, as part of school life, has lots of competition from other equally deserving activities that can do exactly the same positive stuff for children that chess studies claim it can do.
I think that it is disappointing that we in the chess community too often fail to give other activities their due respect.
Instead, we risk falling into the trap of turning chess into a a first rate scam: mindlessly repeating unproven statements about there being 600 million chess players world wide and gloriously singing the praises of chess being an antidote for alzheimer’s disease when infact none of this is little more than fairy tale. There is absolutely no published scientific evidence to back either claim.
There are too few voices in the chess community pointing out that the vast majority of established chess programs and pilot programs in schools are predatory and territorial in design and purpose: even FIDE promotes the World Sub-Championships as a mere source of revenue, gouging parents and their children, forcing them to stay in hotels at double the price, entry fees, trainers and the like.
It is not a pretty sight.
Next: Part II