THE hinge between a nation’s education and prosperity is in its goal of education.
Universally, the objective of education is to transmit knowledge and develop an individual.
But challenges faced in each era would give birth to different goals of education.
For instance, the general goal of education in ancient times in Sparta was to produce soldier-citizens, while in Athens, it was grooming individuals who were good at the arts, both in times of peace and war. In Rome, it was all about having good orators.
In the 19th century, the education objectives in Europe were quite different from that of America.
In Europe, one had to be good at reading, writing and religion, while the Americans focused on science, nature study and matters of everyday life.
Later in the 20th century, as world conditions changed, so did the goals of education, to some extent.
It was about bringing out industrious, well-informed and innovative individuals. America clearly emerged as the strongest nation in the world.
Over the years, with an incredible rise in world population, it was no longer a time of plenty coupled with life’s many complexities.
To survive or to stay in power, nations clamour for resources.
In this light, education’s most vital goal now is to produce individuals who are thinkers and innovators.
Edward de Bono, a thinker who came up with the term “lateral thinking”, suggested that thinking be made a subject that had to be taught.
Taking faith on how great a hold thinking has upon mankind, would it help if we introduce thinking as a subject to children at an early age? Providing a deliberate focus on thinking can be an impetus to creating thinking people.
One may be under the notion that thinking is only for adults. But it may not be so as contents and tools of thinking can be attuned or modified according to the age of a learner.
At present, the training of thinking is mostly practised in the segments of certain subjects such as linguistics, philosophy or psychology in universities.
But learning about thinking, under the circumstances, may not produce thinkers out of the learners.
In this case, the focus is in mastering the subjects (linguistics, philosophy or psychology), not the thinking.
Instead, if thinking is made a subject, it will encourage learners to treat thinking and other subjects equally.
Having thinking in the curriculum also offers the young ‘a thinking time’, where a deliberate effort at thinking can be a foundation to create a habit of thinking.
The subject will also prompt students to read, as thinking will develop as they read.
Correspondingly, the understanding of contents during reading deepens thinking.
In the thinking subject, learners are required to think beyond the common descriptions of a phenomenon (or occurrences). It helps untie one’s way of seeing things from the confines of past descriptions.
In this case, learners will be more aware of the variations of the scope of information.
For example, if a cat chases a mouse, the common description is that the mouse will run in front of the cat horizontally.
Can we train a child’s mind that if the mouse is chased by a cat, it may also run downwards or upwards?
To do so, a child should be exposed to the ranges of information out of the ordinary.
Introducing the thinking subject can train the young to consider other variables and information when observing and expecting any occurrence.
Hence, in the case of cat-chases-mouse, we can tell a child that the mouse may also run downwards or upwards if it is chased on a tilted column. Or ask where would the mouse run if it is chased in outer space, such as in the International Space Station?
Other than the range of information, the methods of thinking to be taught can be collected, merged or isolated from the various fields such as the subjects mentioned earlier, like linguistics, philosophy or psychology.
Other methods of thinking which have been invented and written by certain individuals can be included.
And so are the ones taught explicitly in seminars, classes or short courses like mind mapping, or how to think scientifically, critically or intuitively.
Solving riddles requires thinking too. We may recall our teachers throwing riddles to us.
To solve the riddles, we thought deep, attempted to answer many times, whether they were wrong or correct, and we laughed excitedly. The use of riddles can be a fun way of encouraging children to think beyond the norms.
Projects that require trial and error can be included in the subject of thinking.
Samples of projects done all over the world, which is so richly shown on certain channels such as National Geographic, be shown regularly to learners.
However, thinking is an activity which will not bring immediate commercial value or tangible results.
Hence to execute, there must be a group of people who have a keen belief that thinking can be taught explicitly. And who set to work on the deliberate design of the thinking tools for each level of students.
The affairs of education, such as this, take a long act of patience and perseverance. But we reap what we sow.
MEGAWATI OMAR and DARMARAJAH NADARAJAH
Academy Of Language Studies,
UiTM, Shah Alam, Selangor
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