By: Ashok Purohit

MUSCAT: The Ministry of Education (MoE) has tied up with Oman’s only FIDE-accredited chess trainer to help schoolchildren improve their problem-solving skills and concentration levels.

The initiative, starting next week, will have Ismail Karim training 45 physical education teachers who will in turn ‘impart the basics of the game’ to colleagues and students in their respective schools across Oman. FIDE is the world governing body for chess.

Speaking to Muscat Daily, a senior MoE official confirmed that the project is being conducted in cooperation with Oman Chess Committee (OCC), which was formed by the Ministry of Sports Affairs in February.

According to Mohammed bin Khalfan al Shedi, director-general for educational programmes, MoE, “We are happy with our cooperation with OCC that has facilitated the training of 45 teachers to learn chess. These teachers will later return to their respective regions and hold chess clinics for their colleagues who will, in turn, impart the basics of the game to schoolchildren.”

Shedi added, “We aim to introduce chess to schoolchildren of the middle school level (fourth to sixth grade) as we believe that the sport promotes memory and problem-solving skills. It helps improve concentration levels. They can learn to do better analysis, which can be useful in daily life, too.”

Karim, a French national, is an International Master and chief trainer at the International Chess Academy of Oman.

“The best way to learn chess is to start young,” he said. “Also, the schoolchildren will have the option of taking the sport at a competitive level or playing just to improve their concentration and analytical skills. I hope this initiative of the ministry will pave the way for chess to be included in the curriculum in the coming years.”

Ahmed al Bulushi, a specialist at MoE and a member of OCC, told Muscat Daily that chess could become a part of the school curriculum in future.

“We have found that children do better in mathematics and science once they learn to play chess. The sport is part of the school curriculum in countries such as Turkey and Lithuania. Although we don’t have immediate plans to introduce this, we may consider it in the future.”

Bulushi added that the plan to spread the game across the country and attract more schoolchildren to chess.

“The goal is to spot talented kids who can represent Oman at international age-group competitions. We hope that kids in the age-group of ten-16 years can make their debut by next year in international events.

“The MoE had first introduced the sport in 2012 when it organised a similar training course for teachers, which was conducted by an Egyptian expert. This is the second time we are doing it. But this time, we have Muscat-based Karim conducting the course.”