Kenya: Research Proves Chess Helps Students Perform Better in Class
By Brian Kidula
Last Thursday morning, I had the pleasure of visiting Winka Academy, located in Nairobi’s South C Estate. Chess Kenya (CK) chairman, Githinji Hinga was also present and it wasn’t just an ordinary visit, but a special one, as this is the first school in Kenya to introduce chess as part of its curriculum.
It all started in September last year when former national chess champion and Olympian, Larry Kagambi made a presentation to the director of the school, Warimu Kanyi-Kahoro on the benefits of chess in education and the rest is history.
The pilot project spearheaded by Waridi Chess Ventures has borne fruit, and we were shown records showing improved academic performances ever since chess was introduced as a learning tool. Indeed, this was a calculated risk that the school’s administration took, but the benefits realized are immense.
There is a famous quote that goes, ‘If they can’t learn the way we teach, we should teach the way they learn’.
“It is important for schools and educationalists to adjust the method of content delivery to help children understand what they are teaching,” are the words from the more than satisfied director.
Indeed research has proved that playing chess helps students perform better in their academic work, and more learning institutions should embrace chess as a tool in education. Four-time women’s world champion Susan Polgar noted that: “According to research, test scores improved by 17.3% for students regularly engaged in chess classes, compared with only 4.6% for children participating in other forms of enriched activities.”
Since this year began, scholarly chess was rolled out as a compulsory subject from Standard 1-8 at Winka Academy. The head teacher Mr. Lucas Mburu says, “Scholastic chess in our school has been extremely rewarding. Our pupils’ mental abilities and discipline have greatly improved. We find it easier to teach, give instructions and concepts are understood better.”
Meanwhile, 273 students took part in the 30th edition of the Mt. Kenya Junior Chess Championship held at Bishop Gatimu Ngandu Girls Secondary, Karatina, on Sunday. It was organized by Watson Weru under the auspices of the Mt. Kenya chess club, in collaboration with Nairobi Chess Academy and Club, Prox Chess House and Chess Kenya. FA George Githui was the chief arbiter as FM Steve Ouma wore the mantle of tournament director.
The winners in respective categories were awarded trophies and medals.