by Emily Sholtis & Matthew Pepper, Basis Policy Research
It’s time to take another trip around the world with the third installation of our “Chess Around the World” series! This week we travel to Poland, the second country to add chess to its national primary school curriculum. To read more about the first country, Armenia, click here!
In our blog post “A Look at Chess’s Elite Champions”, we found that Poland has had a total of 40 Grandmasters since 1950 which puts it in the top 6% of countries globally. That’s equivalent to roughly 1 Grandmaster for every 1 million Polish residents. To date, Poland’s greatest Grandmaster is Radoslaw Wojtaszek who earned his title in 1987 and whose individual ranking places him among the most elite chess masters to date.
This strong tradition and respect for the game of chess led the Polish Chess Federation (PCF) to develop a chess program for primary school students. The “Education Through Chess in School” program was launched in 2013 in partnership with the Polish Ministry of National Education and Ministry of Sports and Tourism to increase the math skills of its youngest students. This logic is an interesting contrast to Armenia’s national program which focused on character development, not academics. Poland is currently ranked 11th in global rankings for math/science performance. As we explored many times previously on this blog, many researchers have found a link between chess instruction and student performance in mathematics.
In its first year, the PCF’s program was implemented in 152 volunteer schools reaching 35,000 students. As participants, each school was required to offer at least 1 hour of chess in one class for a minimum of 2 years. All classes were taught by PCF trained educators who had completed 72 hours of training. In addition to providing highly trained instructors, the program provides schools with curriculum-aligned textbooks for students, methodological guides and materials for teachers, and chess sets. Each year concludes with a student tournament. The program has gained support and expanded quickly since 2013, with the 2015 student tournament attracting over 700 students from 123 different schools. In the summer of 2016 they launched their own chess education conference to support the growth and innovation of the “Education Through Chess in School” program.
Thanks to this success, Poland announced in the summer of 2016 that it’s following in Armenia footsteps and taking the program national! As of fall of 2017, the “Education Through Chess in School” program will be expanded to all primary schools and become the national chess curriculum of Poland. This change represents a major step forward for chess education and will be interesting to observe as implementation begins. We have to wait a year, but we will update you on the implementation and success of Poland’s chess curriculum as it launches!