The Development Of Critical Thinking As The Primary Goal Of The Educational Process

Lina Ashar, Founder, Kangaroo Kids EducationHolding a Bachelor's Degree from the Victoria College, Jersey, Lina is a passionate educationist and an entrepreneur who has won several accolades to her name that include Lifetime Award for Achievement in Education by Education World, Alumni Excellence Award by Australian High Commission, and Inspiring Business Leaders India Award by The Economic Times, to name a few.

Let's first start with the definition of Critical Thinking: `Critical thinking means making reasoned judgments that are logical and well-thought out. It is a way of thinking in which you don't simply accept all arguments and conclusions you are exposed to, but rather have an attitude involving questioning such arguments and conclusions.

Years back when I started-out, I realized that our education systems believe in the rote method of learning. Everything was designed for students to only mug-up. There was no culture of working towards making sure children understood what they were learning.

However, one of the most important aspects that one must inculcate in children is the ability to critically evaluate what is being taught, to question and reason every-thing that is told to them. One thing to keep in mind is that all the knowledge today is available out there on the web at the click of the button. However, to be able to evaluate and dissect the information is an art, and that is what children need as a skill today.

As educators, we need to realize that when children grow-up and enter the real world, their organization does not expect them to remember dates of wars or which crop grows where anymore; what they do expect though is for the employee to be able to think, to know how to make connections between ideas, and evaluate information critically. Each decision they make has a consequence and they are required to weigh each aspect intricately before taking the final call.

So if it is an important aspect, why do educators fail to inculcate this habit? Because the need to get better scores is what we emphasize on in
most schools. Also, teaching critical thinking is not an easy task, and a whole lot don't know how it should be introduced. Here are ways in which critical thinking can be introduced from the beginning of a child’s schooling years:

• Encourage children to ask questions: Children are inquisitive and have a lot of questions. At times, when parents and teachers do not have answers to their questions, they are discouraged from asking any. This makes the child believe the questions they are asking are irrelevant and they accept everything at face value. As parents and teachers, we should encourage children to ask why. They should question every-thing they come across.

When you allow children to lead their ship independently, you are making them responsible for their actions

• Answer each question asked in class: As a teacher, just encouraging children to ask questions is not enough. You need to make sure you answer those questions. In case you do not know the answer at the moment, go back and find-out, but make sure you answer the question. A child needs to feel that each question they ask is important. Otherwise, they will stop asking why?’

• Make children find the answers to their own questions: It is a good idea to make children go look for their own answers. You can act as a catalyst and guide them on where they will find the answers. But let them do the self-study. Children need to be able to go look for their own answers and feel elated about it.

• Introduce Situational Role-plays: Situational role plays put children in other people's shoes. Different people react differently in the same situation, helping them analyze each outcome is just as important. Put them in life-changing situations and give them options they would choose from if they were actually in there and let them justify. Then ask them to reason why they did not pick any other option. Let them independently think; but guide them in the right direction if need be after the exercise. Our job as parents and teachers is that of rudders on a ship. We are here only to stir children in the right direction as and when required.

• Allow children to make decisions: When you allow children to lead their ship independently, you are making them responsible for their actions. So, before each step they take, they will analyze each decision, weigh the consequence, and then decide the direction in which they want to move. Defining consequences for each action is important.

While encouraging children to think critically, parents and teachers need to make sure they keep these five points in mind. The Foundation for Critical Thinking has developed five `Intellectual Standards' ­ Be Clear, Be Accurate, Be Relevant, Be Logical, and Be Fair ­ which are ways you can encourage your children to learn to think more critically.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that dealing with children requires a lot of patience. They might go wrong sometimes; they may ask too many questions, they will take decisions in haste. However, as their guides, we need to be very patient with them and keep holding their hand till they learn to take-off and fly.