Australia eyes compulsory chess in schools

Chessboard1Could a humble board game improve school performance and play a role in driving a country’s economy?

Economist and former Liberal advisor John Adams thinks so and is heading a push to make chess a compulsory part of the national curriculum.

“The Gonski report clearly outlined that the performance of Australian school children, based on the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment, has been in decline since 2000 across mathematics, science and reading,” he said.

He points out that chess is already a part of the curriculum in more than 40 countries worldwide and is already implemented in some schools in Australia with evidence that the game is an effective teaching tool.

“In some Australian primary and secondary schools, chess is being taught by full or part-time chess teachers as part of the school’s curriculum or co-curriculum,” Adams said. “I have been amazed at the teachers’ stories, particularly the outcomes they say have been achieved from chess instruction and the transformational effects it has had on the children.”

He adds, “To compete in a knowledge-based and high-tech global economy, Australia will require a workforce that has not only greater skills but greater intellectual prowess based on superior analytical and cognitive abilities.”

Julia Eileen Gillard was Prime Minister of Australia from 2010 to 2013. She wanted to make Australia’s education system in the top 5 in the world by 2025.

Australia’s results have been appalling in recent tests however. In 2011, Australia participated in PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) in which children throughout the world in grade four had their reading abilities evaluated. Australia ranked 27th out of 48 countries, behind every other English-speaking country in the world!

Russia, which ranked second in the PIRLS test, has long been using chess in their education system with astounding results. Chess as an educational tool has been scientifically proven to have limitless benefits academically, psychologically and socially.

Adams also said that “For us to be globally competitive but also to increase our living standards, we will have to compete in the knowledge economy with a greater level of complexity, particularly around high-tech innovation and manufacturing.” The future belongs to the ability of children and their training in school.

Playing chess regularly teaches children of all ages that each decision they make needs to be carefully thought out and viewed from a long term point of view. This is particularly relevant now as teens have problems with drugs and alcohol.

In 2009, President Gloria Macapoagal Arroyo issued an executive order to include chess in schools. As a result, a memorandum of agreement was signed between NCFP president Prospero Pichay and then DepEd Secretary Jesli Lapus to implement the program and a National Chess Academy was supposed to be created.

However, there has been no progress made and the present administration does not have the foresight or the inclination at the highest level. The MOA is still technically in place though and GMs Eugene Torre, Jayson Gonzales , Pichay and especially Armin Luistro have their work cut out for them.

The chess leader here in Cebu, Bodjie Lim, has informed me that they have taken note of Marie Ernestine historic decision to include chess in the curriculum here in Cebu for Grades 3,4,5 and 6.

Apparently the biggest problem is the lack of competent teachers to implement it on a nationwide basis. That is a lame excuse though as Arroyo signed the executive order six years ago.

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About Tsogo Sun Moves for Life

Education through Chess. A proven intervention to unlock the potential of SA's children. Moves for Life unlocks the cognitive potential of South African children by structured implementation of chess education where essential aspects of the game are actively linked with math, science and lifeskill concepts. Learning fundamental concepts are made fun and exciting for the child.
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