Friday, August 21, 2015

FIDE INSTRUCTOR

My FI card arrived yesterday !


Thursday, August 20, 2015

LABOUR SHORTAGE IN CHESS EDUCATION

DISCLAIMER: This post is written by a chess trainer.

There is an acute shortage of chess educators on this island. 

Back in the early 21st century we saw institutions like Intchess hiring as many as 32 trainers to cope with the demand for chess education in schools. Other institutions like Powerchess, Chesskidz, Chess Academy and over the last 10 years we have also seen more recent players like Checkmate and Master Move come into the scholastic scene as well. Freelance trainers like myself are but a handful. However, the pool could barely cover the demands of enrichment programs relating to chess from the primary schools locally. 

With the government's policy of curbing foreign talent, employment passes for chess trainers are hard to get and existing ones not renewed when the term expired. Singapore is now facing a chess trainer crunch when the number of trainers available are dwindling and yet demand is on the rise.

Many schools have placed their tenders on Gebiz calling for term or annual chess training contracts but I observed many re-tenders and some schools could not find any trainer despite months of notice given. The situation worsened with the closure of Chesskidz recently. 

Looks like it is up to the locals to step up and take on the vacancies left, but I guess the remuneration and other terms may need to be revised before it is lucrative. The other factor is the timing - many schools want Chess CCA on a particular day. It will not be possible for any institution to solve the huge demand of chess trainers on a single day. 

What solutions are available? Here are some of mine.

TRAIN THE TRAINER

    More trainer seminars may need to be conducted to accredit interested individuals to look into chess training as a full-time career. It would be good if these courses are also recognised by the WDA who can subsidise the course fees. I expect many PMETs who are middle-aged to be interested in considering a chess training career given this push. 

TECHNOLOGY

    The use of Internet podcasts may also be the way to go to alleviate the surge of demand on particular days by the schools for chess education. Hypothetically, if chess.com material rights can be secured for public broadcast, it is then possible to stream  videos, at the beginner's level, to schoolchildren during the CCA period. What is needed perhaps is someone to answer the questions children may have. 

POLICY 

   If SCF can work with the MOE on formalising chess for schools by official adopting chess as a CCA in all schools, there should be possibilites to tap on its resources. Some school teachers can be trained to teach chess as a subject which will solve the acute manpower crunch. 

What matters is the approach to convince the MOE that chess deserves to be considered in its curriculum. As Singapore moves along the lines of a Thinking Nation, it is imperative that we develop good thinking and concentration skills among our students. Of course, some may argue that chess is not the only vehicle for this course, but then again chess is currently the most formalised board game in terms of acceptance as a teaching tool world-wide. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

NATIONAL INTER - TEAM 2015 SEP 5 and 6

It's taking place just around the corner, have you formed your teams yet?

Take this opportunity to gather inactive and retired chess-players and join! School teams should take this opportunity as a warm up tournament for the coming National Inter Schools.

We hope to do better than last year's turnout - let's make it a vibrant tournament !

Details are available here.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

YOUR WISH LIST?

Now that the new SCF EXCO is in place, we would certainly like to hear from you your wish list for the term 2015-2017, Please feel free to indicate in your comments below what changes you hope to see in the coming years ahead, as a survey of what matters are of priority for the chess community now.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

REVISITING OLD ISSUES - ON CHESS CLUBS

My take on chess club activity here , for those new to my blog.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

RELAUNCHING SCF'S CORPORATE IMAGE

This year we had the privilege of joining the PA Corporate Partners group in the National Day Observance Ceremony at Teck Ghee, with the GOH none other than the PM himself with Ms Ho Ching. Parents and children from the NJS joined the newly elected President Mr Leonard Lau, myself, ED Thomas, EXCO members Toni and Adelin. We were 1 of 3 groups with a banner there.


Everone was in high spirits as we sang our National Songs loudly and proudly! Just as we were to board the bus back to SCF, a call from EXCO member Philip beckoned us back to the venue for a rare photo opportunity!



The PM graciously took this picture with us and thanked us for coming to the ceremony. We also had pictures with Mr Ang, CEO PA and Ms Ho Ching which were posted on Facebook.

Many present took pictures of the SCF group which was a refreshing and welcome change as we made our presence felt. This is the first step the new SCF Committee is taking to rebuild its image as one relevant entity with the PA Strategic Partners who are ready to forge collaborations with other partners on national projects. Looking forward to our first joint project ..

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A NEW DAWN

With a closely contested SCF Elections for the President's post in the 2015-17 term, the new EXCO comprises several new faces and some old hands. The change of leadership, quite unexpected, came about with several Life Members appearing to show support for change in the SCF leadership. This act, I must say, was unprecedented,for the last 3 terms when voting was nearly perfunctory.

My involvement with the SCF goes back in 1985 when I was then a rather vocal critic of the SCF's policies regarding selection of players and other woes. M (a prominent chess organiser) was then spreading allegations of the SCF's misgivings which then influenced my opinion.  Someone within the council (let's call him R) invited me into the council to see for myself if these allegations were true. I accepted the challenge and got involved into the EXCO. Since then I have been in and out of the administration and served in various posts but never the Vice President as I was still junior in terms of age and experience.

28 years had passed. The local chess scene has expanded in numbers (mainly juniors) but overall interest has diminished. Formerly active players are resigned to the fact that nothing better can come out of a regime that has no interest in organising chess that will suit their needs. Draconian measures  introduced, eg the licensing of players, the removal of the SCF Rating System, exclusivity of the National Championship for a selected group had eroded much enthusiasm the adult chess public has for the game. Topping that with hard to access venues for competitions with little monetary incentives, the SCF does seem to be a microcosm of FIDE. The final slap - we could not even get Chess into the SEA Games on home soil. The sad state of affairs in the SCF over the last term has fallen into serious disrepair.

What got me jolted was the decreasing numbers in participation for this year's National Schools' Individuals Championship Under 8 section, which I use as a barometer for the interest in chess among the youth. Given the high attrition rates after Sec1, a decrease of Under-8 participants can mean lower attendances in future tournaments and shrinking numbers that will enrol in chess CCAs. The health of local chess movement is in jeopardy if nothing is done to arrest this decline. Who knows, chess may be relegated to the ranks of squash and into oblivion.

Unseating an experienced and wily politician in an election comes with a big price - loss of credibility, stomaching misconstrued accusations from your close friends. However I have always stated that I am in to serve chess and chess alone. Yes, the victory is bittersweet but well worth the risk because I doubt we can ever see another opportunity to do it again if we lose. It takes a lot of persuasion to garner the right team with the resolve to forge a revolution. But then, the main catalyst came in the exit of the many who served in the last EXCO, which evidently reflects the dictatorial style of the last chair. So here I thank all who came last Sunday to lend their votes for a good cause. Thank you.

To raise the profile of the game in Singapore, our ties with partnering institutions like the SSC, the MCCY, MOE require urgent mending. The press has been ignoring chess coverage for years, we need to engage them. Trainers are in short supply and could not meet the demands of the schools' teaching contracts. The performance of our budding players needs to improve if we hope to get more funding from the SSC. NJS training syllabuses and class-grouping require audit and revamping. Selection guidelines need to be tightened to remove grey areas which can be open to misinterpretation and therefore favouritism. Playing conditions and incentives need to be improved  to entice more to play in the local events. Chess Club activity which were closed need to revived to rejuvenate the interest of a growing aging pool of chessplayers. Sponsorships need to be sought for financing high profile events which the media can be interested to report. Lastly, we need to engage the big pool of strong players which we have alienated due to sour ties between them and the outgoing chair.

With the tumour that ails our chess scene removed, I believe we can only see brighter days ahead for Singapore Chess. I sincerely hope that anyone in the current EXCO can subscribe to the same mission and vision we have, stay united in the course and contribute to changing chess history for the better. We owe that to the future generations of chessplayers here.

Majulah Singapura