Today’s teachers must fight against media and computer games to get their student’s attention, and maintaining the interest of 40 young children for over an hour has become a challenge. But the humble game of chess, played on a simple black-and white chequered board, captivated the young children participating in a presentation and chess lesson organised by Malvern College Hong Kong, and kept their attention for over an hour on the 9th December 2017 in the Science Park.
The college, which is scheduled to open in 2018, invited prospective families to hear about the institution’s teaching philosophy. Largely following the ethos of Britain’s Malvern College, and offering a curriculum based on over 150 years of British boarding school experience, the elite school is developing a programme with a strong emphasis on whole-person development.
Families also learned about the beneficial effects of chess, a game which the school is planning to introduce as a compulsory co-curricular activity. “Educating the whole person is very important to me,” said Dr Robin Lister, Founding Headmaster of Malvern College Hong Kong. “Children have to work very hard to get good exam results. However, that is not enough for their happiness and future career development. We have to provide opportunities for them to fully develop their personality and character. Co-curricular activities, which put an emphasis on the child, are crucial to their development,” Lister said.
Malvern College, which has four Nobel prize winners among its alumni, will place an emphasis on science and maths. Although students’ chess abilities will not be marked, the school is researching how to incorporate the game into the maths curriculum. “There are great cross-overs [between maths and chess], so we will bring it into the maths curriculum wherever it is appropriate,” Lister said.
Co-curricular activities for primary students include rugby, coding, and forest school, an activity which provides outdoor learning experiences. Coding and forest school have already been introduced to parents and candidates. The chess presentation consisted of a class about the game for children aged five to 12, many of whom had no experience of the board game. An hour-long presentation to parents explained the wide range of benefits that come from playing chess regularly at a young age.
Chess, which originated in India around the sixth century, primarily involves problem-solving, and develops skills such as recall, analysis, judgement, abstract reasoning, pattern recognition, and learning how to assess the possible consequences of an action several steps in advance. These elements can greatly help students form their character, and establish a solid foundation for solving life’s problems down the line. Chess teaches children to plan long term, and helps them to think of quick solutions when necessary.
Academic research has proved that students who regularly play chess develop better concentration, as well as more effective logical and analytical skills. Chess also improves reading, writing, speaking, and reasoning abilities. The game helps students develop life skills, and gives them the cognitive skills they need to analyse a situation. The game also helps with interpersonal communication and social skills.
“Chess is an especially effective teaching tool. It can equally challenge the minds of girls and boys, gifted and average, athletic and non-athletic, rich and poor,” says Peter Dauvergne, a Canadian academic and chess master. “It can teach children the importance of planning, and the consequences of decisions. It can further teach how to concentrate, how to win and lose gracefully, how to think logically and efficiently, and how to make tough and abstract decisions.”
David Garceran Nieuwenburg, chess coach and managing director of Caissa Hong Kong Chess Club, talked to the parents, noting that chess increases creativity, which is one of the most sought-after qualities in our fast-changing world. “It develops metacognition, which is the awareness of one’s own thought processes. You learn about yourself,” he said.
As rote learning comes under increasing fire in Hong Kong, parents are looking for something different for their children. Whole-person education, with its long-term developmental advantages, is playing an important role.
“We want something different, a more balanced life for our daughter, so that she can explore different areas,” said Jeff Wong, whose five-year-old daughter proudly queued up after the event to receive an encouragement certificate. “We believe chess would be a good mind game. It’s quite creative to introduce it as part of the curriculum. It’s different from textbook learning,” Wong added.
“Offering chess as a co-curricular activity is interesting and refreshing,” said Wong’s wife Caren Lam. “I’ll have to research it a bit, but this looks fun. The kings and queens, knights and bishops may look interesting for the children.”
Jingjing Bai brought her five-year-old son Bowen to the event. “It can be chess, Chinese chess, or shogi,” Bai noted. “Any game that develops critical thinking would be much appreciated.”
Passage in courtesy of SCMP, please click here to read more about Malvern College Hong Kong on our dedicated channel.