The realization of “Chess in schools” program: from idea to reality
The team that turns the idea of "Chess in schools" program into reality has been led by GM, Vice President of the Chess Federation of Armenia, founder of the Chess Academy of Armenia, Mr. Lputian, who talked about the complicated process of the realization of the program. Mr. Lputian mentioned that the idea to teach chess in the elementary schools has a long history. Having discussions with various specialists, including FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, Mr. Lputian believed the viability of the idea. It is impossible not to mention the immediate supervision of the president of the Republic of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan who has always supported Mr. Lputian’s endeavors.
Mr. Lputian finds it important the immense work that has been done in the field for popularization of chess before it was included in the school curriculum. Before its inclusion in the curriculum of elementary schools since 2005, every year chess school Olympiads have been organized and due to this there was a positive public attitude towards chess. If we also take into consideration the success of Armenian national team and its inspiring role for the new generation we can say that positive attitude in the Armenian society towards chess was natural.
"Chess in Schools" program’s preparatory phase began in 2008. With the support of the Government appropriate conditions were first established in schools, so that they could organize chess training, and as a result, schools were first provided with the appropriate equipment, which allowed us to organize the teaching of chess. The preliminary work was also concentrated to bring together the best psychologists, sociologists, methodologist-players so that they could contribute to the development and implementation of the principles of organizing chess lessons. The selection of experts was very important. It was really hard to find people who would become authors of chess textbooks for secondary schools in Armenia. Hamlet Toomanyan was entrusted to launch the process of secondary books as well as creation of the workbooks and teachers’ handbooks.
According to Mr. Lputian there was a need to find such a specialist who had worked with children for a long time and knew the children’s psychology as well as their abilities. The author should be creative and a qualified person who would know the best way to deal with the schoolchildren. Due to all these qualifications Mr. Toomanyan was chosen. From Mr. Lputian’s point of view, chess textbooks are harmonic and they comprise both simple and complex levels of chess problems. There are many examples in the textbooks from the games of Armenian prominent chess players. It is a result of a quite detailed and complicated work and thereby chess textbooks are unique in their type. The integrity of the book ensures not just the professional approach shown by the author, but also the fact that the books contain a high standard of graphic work, which reflects the content of the classes and helps pupils to find possible solutions to the most difficult problems. The key to success of the textbooks was due to the author’s and the editorial staff’s dedicated work. The total number of the specialist that has been involved in this process was 12.
Teaching of chess in secondary schools provided a greater popularization of chess in Armenia. But this was not the main goal of the program. The real goal is to develop elementary schools pupils' thinking through chess. For the purpose of recording the actual results of chess teaching in schools psychological, social, and inclusive-oriented research was conducted to determine the impact of chess on the personal development of the child. Mr. Lputian highlights that the positive results of this research, and the children’s love towards chess encouraged them all to continue their work. In this sense, Mr. Lputian becomes increasingly convinced that learning of chess will lead to the creation of the conscious citizens.
The research activities of "Chess educational research center” carried out in Armenian State Pedagogical University after Khachatur Abovyan greatly contribute to the effective implementation of the program. Results of research conducted in this field help both Armenian and foreign experts learn about research aimed at detecting and identifying opportunities for the educational development of pupils through the best qualities of chess. Mr. Lputian mentions the training of qualified specialists that would guarantee the successful of the in “Chess in Schools” program was the main challenge faced in the process of implementation. To this end, starting from 2017, ASPU will provide a four-year bachelor degree program, which will result in even greater number of chess educators. Another important task is to inform parents and the public about the chess values and educational goals. Due to the consistent implementation of this process we can notice positive trend of attitude change in the society towards chess.
To help other countries that are seeking to include the ancient game in the national school curriculum, three years of activities have already been developed for the distance learning program, thereby allowing foreign specialists to learn from the Armenian experience. Mr. Lputian believes that more precise assessment of the effectiveness of chess training can be given approximately in 10-15 years when children who studied chess at school become mature and take advantage of their skills developed by chess for the sake of the dynamic development of our motherland.
Concluding his speech, Mr. Lputian notes that in Armenia there is generally a good atmosphere for the development of chess. There is a good team and a large number of players, which seems to be one family. Chess is popular as a result of a well-organized hard work, and a little bit is thanks to Armenians’ special intellectual abilities. In all this, there is of course immense work done by the President of the Republic of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan. Thanks to his direct leadership, Armenia has become known worldwide as a chess superpower.
By Tatev Khachatryan