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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Importance of Critical Thinking in Child Development: How Marisa van der Merwe Stimulates 21st Century Readiness

Last updated Thursday, February 29, 2024 09:52 ET

The founder of MiniChess, Marisa van der Merwe, emphasizes the necessity of developing THINK skills at a young age, explaining the connection between critical thinking and chess-based games.

Tshwane, South Africa, 02/29/2024 / SubmitMyPR /

The world has seen a seismic shift in the desired skills students should possess to prepare for joining the workforce. While the previous generations were focused more on information and knowledge-based abilities, the 21st century requires more analytical and creative thinking. The World Economic Forum highlighted leadership, social influence, curiosity, and lifelong learning as skills expected to grow in demand. The report also highlighted an alarming issue—60% of workers will require additional training before seeking job opportunities, but only half will have adequate training opportunities.

A study concluded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) showcased that kids between the ages of 4 and 12 demonstrated the most active learning abilities, emphasizing the importance of adequate guidance from the early stages of development. Aiming to bridge the gap between education and rapidly evolving technology, Marisa van der Merwe, founder of MiniChess, has committed to teaching crucial THINK skills to children.

Marisa introduced her unique MiniChess methodology to local communities in 1992, hoping to do nothing more than add value to impoverished districts. After observing the development of her students, the founder of MiniChess quickly realized that her approach taught skills necessary in many aspects of life. “Playing chess requires strategizing, tactical and analytical thinking, and problem-solving,” added Marisa. “Especially for children in early development stages, using the game of chess as a platform for education presents a rich opportunity to learn crucial THINK skills in an accessible way.”

After realizing the all-rounded benefits of game-based learning, Marisa embarked on a journey to introduce children to chess-based games that propel 21st-century readiness. One of the most prominent issues in school systems worldwide, especially in impoverished countries, is the singular focus on knowledge and information, neglecting imperative social development and analytical thinking skills. “I talked to many people worldwide, and their input painted a crystal clear picture—the workplace demand has changed dramatically in the last few decades, and that pattern is palpable globally,” expressed Marisa.

While older generations used to get employed for adequate knowledge, the fourth industrial revolution shifted the demand drastically. With the rise of technology, knowledge is accessible to anyone worldwide, making it more of a commodity than a luxury. According to Marisa, accessing information isn’t a skill anymore, and discerning it counts more.

Marisa emphasizes that accurate knowledge is invaluable for developing a perceptual understanding of one’s surroundings. However, the strikingly different speed at which technology and education systems evolve created a disconnect many students struggle to conquer. School curricula and syllabi change slowly, while workplace demands shift daily. Implementing team-building, creative and analytical thinking, and problem-solving classes is pivotal in preparing future generations for entering the workforce.

The importance of teaching children THINK skills would still apply even in the unlikely event of school systems catching up with technology. As noted by Marisa, many children, especially in poverty-stricken countries, grew up watching parents work skill-based jobs. In the 21st century, many of these positions were taken over by machines, lowering the demand for physical occupations.

“The generational gap created a tough-to-break cycle of poverty. Not only poverty of money but also of mindset and experience. It’s crucial to teach youth important skills through older generations’ experience, but it’s even more important to teach them skills relevant to the current workplace situation,” explained Marisa.

According to Marisa, chess-based games present a beneficial platform for kids and youth to develop THINK skills, improving their chances of succeeding in the cut-throat working world. She also emphasizes the vital role of proper mentors. Marisa explains, “You can learn the rules of chess from a textbook, but it’s not the same as actually playing chess. Practicing allows children to feel the adrenaline, think of solutions on the spot, and manage their emotions when faced with loss or victory.”

The most valuable lesson of MiniChess and learning through games is developing a critical thinking ability at a young age. As stated by Marisa, critical thinking consists of five parts that apply to any field and industry worldwide. These steps are:


  1. situation analysis,

  2. identifying different aspects of the situation,

  3. designing a solution,

  4. implementing the solution,

  5. evaluating the solution.


While observing students and their methods, Marisa realized that these are the exact steps everyone takes before moving chess figures between different squares.

Marisa van der Merwe has taught over 250,000 children in her 32 years of experience, forming MiniChess in 2010 to make her methodology widely accessible. Through simple chess-based games, MiniChess enables children to develop crucial THINK skills desired in the current workforce landscape. Rather than replace current school methodologies, MiniChess offers a way to enrich the curricula and provide the necessary skills in a fun and playful way.

“MiniChess offers programs and games that are a real game-changer in the 21st century. My mission started over 30 years ago in the privacy of my local community, and the positive impact I’ve seen on children throughout the years was shocking,” shared Marisa. “In an era where technology develops fiercely and unstoppably, it’s vital to prepare the next generations for the challenges of joining the workforce, and MiniChess offers a rich and many-faceted platform to achieve that goal.”


Media Contact

Name: Marisa Van Der Merwe

Email: [email protected]


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