Being a part of the teaching fraternity in India, we tend to give ourselves a pat on the back when we read or hear of how good our education system is and how our students excel in varied fields of academics in any hallowed university of the world. However, a moment or two of introspection will have us think differently, I am sure!!
Great results every year with students achieving up to 99% will make us feel that India is a country of super achievers, great thinkers and amazing developers. Yes, there are some who do fit that bill in their adult years, but a vast majority belong to those who view the world in black or white, who fail to see the linkages and complexities, who consider only their own opinions relevant, their perspective sensible and their goals as the only valid ones worth considering. Recent headlines in a leading national daily screamed, ‘Indian students rank second last in global test’. Apparently our students scored better only than their counterparts from Kyrgyzstan – even in math and science. Who should be held answerable for these results? Why is it that our students’ skills are not adequately developed? If a purely fact-based and knowledge-based test were conducted, we would, perhaps exhibit a better score (with students drawn from a more privileged background). Where does the difference lie? Where do we as educationists go wrong? As I see it, the difference lies in the little magic word – ‘WHY?’ Do we as teachers allow and encourage our students to question, reason, discover, and CRITICALLY THINK?
Critical thinking is essentially the ability of an individual to think clearly, logically, and rationally. He has the ability to engage in reflective, individual thinking. A critical thinker is not necessarily a person with a good memory or one who knows a lot of facts. A critical thinker is one who is able to deduce consequences from what he knows. He is able to use information to effectively solve problems and has the ability and humility to realize that he is not adequately informed to solve a problem. He, therefore, seeks relevant sources of information. Let us, as mature, informed individuals, introspect a moment and analyze ourselves. Are we critical thinkers ourselves? Do we accept correction, criticism, innovation and questioning from our peers, colleagues and our students? Here, it is important to note that critical thinking should not be confused with being argumentative or being critical of others. Rather this form of informed reasoning and clear thought teaches us to discriminate, to analyze and to logically question. It helps to focus on relevant issues and formulate opinions. Critical thinking, therefore, plays an important role in co-operative reasoning and constructive tasks.
The author is an independent consultant for teacher development, a life skills trainer and a content developer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.