In the Roma culture children are usually removed from school at an early age before they reach secondary school. They may have a basic grasp of numeracy and literacy but they do not benefit from the wider educational opportunities. The children who stay at home with unemployed parents in impoverished conditions have limited chances in life. This is a particularly serious issue in Eastern Europe where there is a significant proportion of the populartion who are Roma.
A project in Hungary is trying to address this problem. The Ministry of Education has selected the Chess and Logic programme developed by Erzsabet Sarlos and her team to make school lessons more interesting. They have found that when children play chess at school, their motivation to remain at school increases. The effect is greatest when children are introduced to games-based learning from the age of 6 or 7.
The mayor of a Roma town is leading the introduction of the programme in the local school. Teachers do not need to be a chess player or a logician. The teachers undergo a well-designed 60-hour training course and are provided with the classroom materials. The programme is in its early stage but they have noticed improvement in the behaviour of the children. There is a high incidence of fighting among the community as a way to resolve differences. Chess teachers emphasise the need to respect one’s opponent and to accept defeat in good spirit. The morality of chess may be more important than the logic.
Top photo: Roma children in Hungary