International Day of Human Abilities

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An opportunity to promote soft-skills training in school and society

By Giulio Frasson, Centro Studi Podresca

In October 2017, Centro Studi Podresca, an Italian research institute for the development of human abilities, started a campaign for the creation of an International Day of Human Abilities under the United Nations in keeping with their Sustainable Development Goals. 

But what is it all about and what does it have to do with chess?

Society is rapidly changing, there is an ongoing technological revolution, educational systems need to adjust to provide the necessary skills to face the challenges to come. 

The McKinsey Global Institute report of January 2017 stated that “half of today’s work activities could be automated by 2055, but this could happen up to 20 years earlier or later depending on the various factors”. Basically, all the jobs that are knowledge-based will be easily replaced by machines, robots and AI. We need to rethink the concept of work and education.

In this framework, the development of  “human factors” becomes crucial. Schools, and also life-long learning programmes for adults, are currently focused on technical skills. But they should introduce a new field of learning – to improve the development of human abilities. 

Human abilities are the personal and relational skills, such as creativity, problem-solving, co-operation, lateral thinking, systems thinking, understanding, ethics, purpose, awareness, and so on, – the things that make us unique and keep us together as human beings. Human abilities are the base on which to build the society of the future. 

The remarkable “Chess in Schools” work, carried out by many national chess federations and scholastic chess organisations around the world already serves this purpose. This movement is perfectly aligned with the activity of other organisations that train soft skills in schools and work environments using other methods. Chess is not only taught for sports and recreational purposes –  it can be and is used as a tool to develop a variety of different personal and social skills such as focus, fair play, patience, co-operation, acceptance and many others, depending on how the activity is designed. There are many practices that have achieved considerable results in this field that should be better known and disseminated.

Centro Studi Podresca has been conducting scientific research into Human Abilities for 30 years and has developed a comprehensive method to train human abilities. Despite the fact that many good things are done, awareness on this topic needs to be raised significantly. The typical attitude towards human abilities is that they are part of one’s character and therefore are fixed.  The importance of social confidence and self-esteem for the quality of life is largely underestimated. Even where there is sensitivity, there is little knowledge on how to train these factors.

An International Day of Human Abilities established by the United Nations would be the most appropriate means to increase understanding and actions on the importance of developing skills to express ourselves and interact correctly with others in our daily lives. An International Day can stimulate much-needed debate and communication on a topic. It can lead to  the organisation of international summits of experts; conferences can emerge on the national and local level. It is an opportunity to provide information activities in schools, which is what happens with other topics that have international days named after them.   Hopefully, we will see reforms to educational systems and to the funding of innovative projects such as chess projects.

In this initial phase, the aim of Centro Studi Podresca is to gain support from authoritative governmental and non-governmental bodies, as well as from private citizens, towards a common document inviting the United Nations to designate a specific day to the promotion of human abilities. We would like the chess world to be part of this social enterprise.

About John Foley

Director, London Chess Conference Secretary, Education Commission, European Chess Union Director, ChessPlus Ltd Promoting chess as a way to develop thinking skills

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