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. 

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