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Armenia Makes Chess A Mandatory Subject in School

Chess is very popular in Armenia. In a move to become globally known for prowess in the game, the government of Armenia has made the study of it mandatory for school children:

The authorities led by President Serzh Sarkisian, an enthusiastic supporter of the game, have committed around $1.43 million to the scheme - a large sum in the impoverished but chess-mad country.

Children from the age of six will learn chess as a separate subject on the curriculum for two hours a week.

Aivazian said the lessons, which start later this year, would "foster schoolchildren's intellectual development" and teach them to "think flexibly and wisely".

Do you think that the children will benefit from this time spent studying chess? via reddit | Photo (unrelated) by Flickr user Andréia used under Creative Commons license

Interesting concept.

Will it help develop better (smarter) students - I doubt it.

To get fair to middling in chess requires lots and lots and lots of memorizing, but little independent thinking. It's only as you climb into the rarefied upper echelons of chess masters do you meet people who can sift thru vast numbers of game boards and moves to create the best solution to their current game.
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Chess doesn't make people smart. Smart people do well in chess. The best this will do is expose talented kids who may not realize their potential without these programs.
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It will teach and provide practice in developing a plan and in using strategies in general. And do students need it ever! And if chess is as popular as they say it is in their country, go for it. Anything that will keep them engaged. Though I would be careful and offer another activity if someone just does not like chess.
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I have my doubts that the strategy skills involved in playing chess can be generalised to developing plans and strategies in the real world.
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I think this is a positive move. In response to those who don't think it will help the students, it's been shown that chess develops kids' visual memory, attention span, spatial reasoning, and prediction skills and, more importantly, some research has shown that playing chess is one of a handful of activities (which also includes reading out loud) that can significantly alter brain structure and development.

While the scientific consensus is that you can't make kids more intelligent (this is why "Baby Einstein" DVDs are mostly a sham) you can affect their development, outlook and intellectual confidence in a positive way with these kind of programs.
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We had compulsory chess in my elementary school years. An hour every day. All it accomplished in me was a focused beam of pure hatred towards the game and an utter lack of respect for my classmates as they were either snide winners or crybaby losers.
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I had a similar experience to what Exxos had. My brother taught me to play chess, and I played a lot for a while. But he was such a cock when he won, and would get pissed and pout if I won. It wasn't even fun, it was like the game was designed to make people unhappy. I haven't played since I was like ten or eleven, and I don't plan on ever playing again. I do not see this working out quite as they would like it to.
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Could be useful for learning how the ego works. The film "Revolver" by Guy Ritchie, which illustrates how the ego works, uses Chess as an analogy.
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Most people here with negative experiences of chess were forced to take it up. Chess is beautiful. It's a game, but I've found that it helps a lot in the way you think in real life too.
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Sounds like you could be talking about Monopoly, with the unsportsmanlike winners and whiny losers. I hated Monopoly with a passion.
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Chess blogger Mig covered most of the angles about this here:
www chessninja com/dailydirt/2011/04/chess-in-armenian-schools htm

WordPress won't let me add a link so I'll just quote the most important part:

"This page [*] is a nice summary of studies and research papers on chess in schools and its impact on development and achievement. There's the usual correlation vs causation problem in most of these studies, of course. Societies really don't like doing serious compulsory experiments on kids, for mostly obvious reasons, so it's hard to do rigorous double-blind experiments with the control groups and random selection needed to produce good science. Plus, the people guiding the experiments are often chess people with a strong desire for the results to come out with a positive spin for chess.

None of this is to say that chess can't improve reasoning or reading scores or discipline -- I believe it can -- but it's also hard to say that kids who are motivated enough to stick with a chess program aren't also motivated enough to improve in other ways relative to kids who don't stick with chess. (E.g. most kids who regularly work on music or painting also have better reading scores than kids who don't.) Patience and focus are increasingly shown to be the determining success factors in (American) school environments. Chess both teaches and rewards these characteristics. One of my favorite statistics in recent years is the one that showed the highest correlation between standardized tests at the high school level and college GPA was not the test scores themselves but how long the students took on each question. More time, better future GPA. Work matters."

[* go to original article for link]
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