Why Every Child Should Learn Go

© 2009 Milton N. Bradley

Although it might seem that the time and effort expended on Go constitutes a distraction from academic work, there is much anecdotal evidence indicating that the students who play Go regularly actually outperform their non-Go playing peers. In fact, a 7 year study conducted by the Japanese Education Ministry showed that STUDENTS WHO WERE MEMBERS OF THEIR JUNIOR AND SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL GO CLUBS ARE TWICE AS SUCCESSFUL IN GAINING ENTRY INTO THEIR PRESTIGIOUS NATIONAL UNIVERSITIES (the equivalent of our Ivy League colleges) AS ALL OTHERS!

In the same manner that progressive weight training complements specific sport skill training, Go complements the standard school academic curriculum, filling in the gaps in the student's thinking processes left by its emphasis on the rote memorization of facts and the manipulation of pat formulas. This effect is further enhanced by Go's unique integration of both left brain (analytic) and right brain (artistic) capabilities in a developmental way that is unmatched by any other known human activity!

Many young people "resist to the death" when school and parents attempt to induce them to pay attention to formal classroom instruction and (even worse) devote hours of their personal time to homework. In sharp contrast, even indifferent/sub-par students who become caught up in the fascination of Go's exquisite subtlety, incisive tactics and profound strategy, willingly engage in prodigies of intense over-the-board concentration, and expend untold hours of study to improve their playing skills and understanding. They do so because it is FUN, and in the process they not only restructure their brains but also develop habits of study and concentration which then carry over with salutary effect into their academic and real life interfaces.

Does this actually work? Or is it just a pleasant sounding theory? As noted above there are no hard statistics to definitively support its efficacy, but among the vast amount of anecdotal evidence I found the following to be especially persuasive - and I expect that you will be similarly impressed:

"I can honestly say that I have learnt more about how to conduct my life from Go than from any other intellectual pursuit." Stephen G. Fawthrop, Ph.D., Math. & Stat. Department, Radford University, Radford, VA 24091, 540-831-6096.

A slightly different approach which offers further insight into this important issue is provided by the following new study:

Title: The IQs of Children who learn Baduk go up!

This article was published by Park Chi-Moon (probably the most famous Baduk reporter in Korea) in the Joongang Daily (a very old and respected newspaper in Korea) on January 3, 2009, and subsequently posted with the author's permission on the official Korean Baduk Association web site http://www.baduk.or.kr) on Feb 2,2009 as article number 512239.

Translated from the Korean by Gary Kim, edited by Milton N. Bradley -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A new study has suggested that the kids who learn Baduk (Go, Weiqi) improve their IQ, concentration level, and problem solving skills.

Baromi Kim of the Children’s Division, Kyung Hee University, has revealed in her Ph.D. dissertation that the kids who participated in her Baduk program experiment are superior to their non-participating counterparts in the categories of intelligence(IQ), concentration (ability to maintain focus on the task at hand), problem solving skill, and satisfaction-deferment ability (ability to curb precipitous action and be patient.). There have long been common conjectures regarding the benefits of playing Baduk, such as increase in intelligence and patience, and now she has provided solid evidence to backup those contentions.

Kim conducted her experiment over a 7 month period, in 2 divisions of the Seoul Deoksoo Elementary School(*http://www.deoksoo.es.kr/sub7/main.asp?idx=1), with 68 children, age five.

First, in March 2008, she tested the 68 kids in four areas, namely; intelligence, using the most trusted and widely used test(K-WPPSI) for measuring the intelligence of young children; ability to maintain focus on a given task; problem solving ability; and satisfaction-deferment ability.

Then, she randomly divided the 68 kids into two groups, and went on to enroll the 36 in the experimental group in her Baduk program. (The remainder were the control group.). After the program had ended, in October 2008, she re-conducted the tests of the aforementioned four areas on all the same children, with the result that the ones who participated in the Baduk program showed superior performance to the control group in all four areas:

- In the category of IQ (bodily-kinesthetic IQ), the control group showed an increase of 9.8 from 99.8 to 109.4, while the experimental group showed a much er increase of 15.7, from 103.1 to 118.8.

- In the area of concentration, the control group increased by 90.0, from 96.9 to 186.9, while the experimental group increased 157.1, from 92.2 to 249.3.

- In the problem solving skills as well, the control group increased 7.44, from 34.97 to 42.41, while the experimental group increased by 16.08, from 36.61 to 52.69.

So it seems that the natural curiosity the game of Baduk produced in these children has helped their concentration, while the experience of having solved continuous problems on the Baduk board has also affected these children in positive ways.

- There was a rather peculiar result in the satisfaction-deferment ability test. While it is traditionally thought that all abilities of children increase as they grow up, this was shown not to be the case with regard to patience. Those who did not participate in the Baduk program went down 78.50 in the patience score from 566.41 to 487.91 In contrast, those who learned Baduk increased 109.01 from 555.31 to 664.33. This showed that the nature of Baduk, in which you need to repeatedly play by the rules, may have relevance with regard to the children of the modern age, who may often lack patience and are not accustomed to wait. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


This study on the benefits of playing Baduk on children's intelligence was cogent and interesting especially because its results were in accord with what we already believe, but regrettably was not definitive because it was scientifically flawed. Not only were the sample sizes quite small, but, at least equally important, no attempt seems to have been made to assess the statistical significance of the results. In addition, these two primary flaws are further exacerbated by the secondary fact that no attempt seems to have been made to assess the effects (if any) of the host of other variables (demographics, diet, family situation, etc., etc.) that conceivably could have affected the observed results.

Until these flaws are corrected in a followup study, final judgment on the study's premise of a salutary effect of playing Baduk (Go) on children's intelligence must regrettably be deferred.


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