If you have any interest in chess education you should certainly subscribe to First Rank, a newsletter published by the Education Commission of the European Chess Union.
If you’ve missed any issues, don’t worry. The link to Issue 7 below will enable you to access everything.
First, an explanation. The ECU are promoting chess in schools (up to the age of 11), specifically NOT as a competitive game, but as a learning tool designed to produce social and educational benefits for young children. They call it ‘scholastic chess’, but as this term has a very different meaning in the US I’d prefer to call it ‘educational chess’. We’re told every year at the Chess and Education Conference that this has nothing at all to do with what Carlsen and Caruana play, or even what you and I probably play.
I’d like to draw your attention in particular to Issue No. 7 of First Rank. Here’s what IM Jesper Hall has to say about who should teach ‘educational chess’ in schools. I hope Jesper doesn’t mind that I’ve taken the liberty of making the English a bit more idiomatic.
“Two years ago ECU Education carried out a survey on the CiS (Chess in Schools) movements in Europe. The most striking thing was that every country was struggling with the same main problem: How to teach chess when the goal is to obtain social and intellectual benefits? First of all who should teach? When you teach you need skills in the subject and skills in teaching. Chess instructors have knowledge of chess, but struggle with teaching skills, teachers struggle with the opposite problem. What I believe in is teachers taking care of the younger years, maybe up to 10-11 years of age: after that there will be a need for more chess knowledge and the chess instructors can come in and train the most interested children. The second problem is that the instruction materials normally focus on chess development, and not on the actual goals of CiS. This means that it is even more important to understand how to use the material, and to add good exercises beside the materials.”
I’m sure many of my chess teaching colleagues will disagree with this, and, in particular, would deny that they struggle with teaching skills.
I’ll write a lot more about my views on this later. For the moment, I’d be very interested to hear your views about whether chess in primary schools should be taught, as Jesper thinks, by class teachers or, as usually happens in the US and the UK, by professional chess tutors.