Starting this year, all students over the age of 6 in Armenia are required to learn and play chess as a school subject. What a fascinating idea! According to the article above, Armenia is already home to many of the world’s chess grandmasters and gold-medal winners of International Chess Olympiads. Also, the article says most Armenians perceive chess to be an inclusive and universal sort of activity that joins together people of all backgrounds, ages and physical abilities. Educators have extended it to children in schools with the mindset that chess is appealing because it is a game but also rewarding because it is an intellectually challenging activity.
Grandmaster Smbat Lputian, of Armenia’s Chess Academy, was the person who paved the way to implementing chess as a mandatory school subject. According to Lputian, learning chess strategies helps children develop critical thinking skills. Having a direct influence over game outcomes encourages children to think carefully well in advance and take responsibility for their own decisions. Not only that, it gives children a deep sense of victory when their strategies work.
Another aspect of the article I found interesting was a quote taken from a psychologist named Ruzanna Gharibian. She says high-tech computer games simply can’t offer children what chess does. “You know it is much better to create an atmosphere of real moral victory [for a child] by giving them these chessmen rather than giving them a computer and letting them experience victory through different aggressive [computer] games.”
With all that class time being spent on prepping students for standardized tests (and the lack of focus on other important subjects,) I wonder if implementing chess as a school subject would ever be a possibility in the U.S.