The pronounced need and demand in education now is for learning experience to be more democratized. Uganda’s new curriculum for lower classes of secondary schools is one strong manifestation of it. I have had conversations with teachers and school administrators, several of whom find implementation of the curriculum very challenging in some respects. They will tell you that to keep a learner under control demands exerting authority (if need be, by physical force), lest the learners become undisciplined and fail in their academics all together. The idea of having an engaging lesson where teachers may do more of a conversation with learners, or better still facilitate conversation between the learners themselves rather than listening to facts from teachers is something which many of the latter find hard to accommodate. I regard it to be classroom politics where teachers want to be recognized as the all-knowing and all-powerful before their pupils.
As a regular player of chess, I find the game worth exploring as a strategy that can successfully engage our traditional-minded teachers to accept the ways of the new age kid in classroom. The transferable value of learning chess game for educational purposes is real, immense, and can be felt even without going into deep research work. It is such an intricate game which demands for high-level concentration through a thousand possibilities to a solution. Chess develops a child to think independently, creatively, and innovatively. It also demands mutual respect towards opponents. Science reveals that like any other faculty of the human body, the mind also requires constant exercise to strengthen it for its role. Relatively speaking, younger minds have an advantage over older minds because like our bones, where the former have “flexible, marrow-like” brains, the older minds are “bristle”. I have also noticed that kids tend to play the game with a natural abundance of fearlessness, hunger, and dexterity which with good practice, and a good coach combines to make them formidable opponents.
So, I am of the view that one of the ways of helping teachers to embrace learner-centred teaching that focuses on competencies is to design a learning experience for them to regularly play and learn chess with their students. Appropriate evaluation and monitoring tools can be designed so that the activities and the entire program is assessed for impact: In the end, the teacher is likely to have a greater appreciation of a students’ capacity to learn on their own, and the need to shift from teacher-centred to learner-centred classroom experience. Inhuman treatment of learners, including use of corporal punishment will likely be dropped in favour of better alternatives to learner behaviour management. Mutual relationship between teachers and students is also likely to be enhanced. The seeds of a facilitating teacher in the classroom will have been sown.