Archive for the ‘Higher Order Thinking skills (HOTS)’ Category

“Think tanking’ vital for nation

Monday, June 4th, 2018
Tun Daim Zainuddin heads the Council of Eminent Persons, which will provide advice on issues, as well as input on the economy, institutional reforms and other policy matters. FILE PIC

MUCH has happened since the 14th General Election (GE14). Many are waiting to see how Pakatan Harapan’s election promises will be delivered.

One interesting initiative is the establishment of the Council of Eminent Persons.

The members are made up of prominent Malaysians, who are experts and have served the country.

The council will provide input on the economy, institutional reforms and other policy matters.

Although many professionals have retired, the nation can tap their experience. It would be a waste if their knowledge and expertise were not used.

The council is one platform where these professionals can contribute to the country.

There are a number of think tanks. Some are established by universities, while others are initiated by non-governmental organisations.

The Institute of Strategic and International Studies must count among the more established ones.

The Academy of Sciences Malaysia, established more than 20 years ago, has earned itself a name as a leading advisory group on science.

The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs also has made its presence felt.

In many countries, think tanks are valued as a source of ideas that can be harnessed to support nation building.

Ideas can include strategies on boosting the economy, policies to motivate science and innovation, and policies on sustaining social integration.

But they can be useful only if they are independent, objective and above politics.

Their views should not be silenced just because they do not agree with the mainstream views.

Great ideas of the past are rooted in dissenting views. This is what critical thinking is about. Such thinking should be nurtured at an early age in the education system. The school curriculum should consider incorporating “think tanking” lessons for students.

The nation is entering a new era. For the academic community, the most welcome news is the promise by the government to revive academic freedom in universities.

There are signs that the universities and University Colleges Act 1971 will most likely be done away with. If not completely, at least parts of the act that stifle freedom of expression will be removed.

Many agree that research and development (R&D) is a critical investment in the innovation-led global economy.

R&D is not only for the development of knowledge to invent technologies and products. It is also for the development of knowledge to support policy formulation.

Think tanks can be considered as institutions that conduct research to contribute to policymaking.

This means “think tanking” is an important investment for the country.

Many are relieved that the new administration is undoing rules that suppressed the freedom to communicate ideas.


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Knowledge reproduction: The value of criticism

Thursday, May 31st, 2018

Should we teach university students to be critical of the nation and society?

THERE seems to be a natural fear of criticisms. At the same time, we evoke the rhetoric upon our society — the public, teachers and pupils in the school system, and scholars and students in the universities — to be critical. And, of course, a critical opposition in our political culture. And journalists to be critical of.

Some years ago when I was teaching journalism, there were occasions when colleagues posed the question: “Should we teach journalism students to be critical of journalism itself — as a profession, as an institution and as a vocation?” The answer is if students of journalism are critical of the practice, they will not be able to function as a journalist. There will be too many questions to ask and reflect on themselves and their role in society and the nation.

On the other hand, should we teach university students to be critical of the nation and society? The rhetoric would be a “yes”. But have we? Even our academics give lip service to being critical. And at another level, many are territorial and avoid criticisms of their own fields and academic disciplines. Assumptions, concepts, theories and methodologies in their fields are taken as a given, perhaps descending from heaven and must not be desacralised. The turf is sacred.

Dissent is frowned upon and delegitimised. While rummaging through books and papers in my cluttered library at home, I chanced upon a publication. The Dissenting Knowledge Pamphlet Series has been around for more than a decade since 2004. The bad news is that the publication has been poorly circulated and not consumed by those who should. The series, published by Citizens International in Pulau Pinang and Multiversity in Goa, India, from 2005, “seeks to furnish intellectuals, scholars, activists and serious readers, and especially those who rebel at the idea that the university should be the sole site of the life of the mind, with a more public and accessible forum of informed and dissenting opinion than is customarily available through scholarly monographs and learned journals,” said New Delhi-based scholar Vinay Lal, its founding editor.

The Forward was for series no. 9 titled Ignorance and the Durability of Religion: A Parable by James Carse, Emeritus Professor of Religion at New York University. Lal’s Forward referred to how we have reconstructed religion in a template informed by the early modern history of Western Europe, specifically Protestant Christianity. In context, it was a critique on globalisation and essentially a plea to recognise that what had been effectively affected are our knowledge production systems. Our universities should assume their institutional obligations as knowledge production systems, and our academics should see themselves as integral to the system. But which system? And what knowledge?

This is where being critical comes in. The knowledge production system that we are operating within — transmit, construct and theorise — is issued forth from a crucible that was to dominate, colonise and determine our worldview. In the modern guise of globalisation, it has captured and monopolised our imagination.

The Forward, in emphasising the ramifications of globalisation, looked at history as the principle determinant in regimes of colonialism, which some of us, and all of our forefathers, lived in for a few hundred years. We see the world, as I have repeatedly said in my earlier writings, from the prism of the West. We understand the world as we know today almost entirely through categories that are largely the product of Western knowledge systems and the academic disciplines. These have been charged with codifying, disciplining, organising, institutionalising and transmitting knowledge, not only about our physical and material world, but also about our various social, scientific, cultural, political, economic, religious and legal institutions and practices.

We have not broken our (false) consciousness. Within a knowledge-producing environment, being critical necessarily has political and epistemological consequences. And this means decolonising our academic disciplines. What we are engaged in as teachers and researchers of our “territory” was established and formalised against a past that later came to dominate us in their own image. The subjugation of the other, peoples of non-white and coloured races, has been accepted with a benign posture by our society and academic fraternity.

After almost 61 years of Independence, our universities and academics are still captive. We consume the great game of colonialism, in absolute awe of the European Enlightenment’s categories. We ignore Europe’s claim to universalism and are oblivious of the resulting extinction of our lifestyle, culture and knowledge. And so we respond with our category of what we have termed as “local knowledge”. But is this “local knowledge” that we have inadvertently and falsely celebrated — as to its sociological, historical and epistemological foundations — an adjunct to the mainstream knowledge production system? Thus far, local knowledge has been associated with the non-western, described condescendingly as ethnic, or tribal, and not within the geopolitics of the Western world. Is Europe not also local? Must “local knowledge” remain and assumed to be local, and is the past and not universal, as Europe and the west have constructed their beliefs and society to be? Colonialism has obscured a common, and often intellectual awareness of our histories.

The pamphlet series is part of the initiative to create an awareness and a consciousness amongst academics, scholars and the intelligent conscious public. It, of course, can come in many forms and platforms viz the integration with digital technologies and used in the social media. The social history of pamphlets, seen in the modern period, has led to consciousness and the democratisation of knowing. The concern is that our campuses develop an uncritical stance in the teaching and learning process. Our slogan of democratising higher education contradicts the democratisation of knowing and consciousness.

By A Murad Merican.

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Key to higher order thinking skills

Monday, April 9th, 2018
Nawal says a lively classroom means the students are actively taking part in the teaching and learning process.

Nawal says a lively classroom means the students are actively taking part in the teaching and learning process.

SINCE 2013, Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) questions have found their way into national level examinations.

And they will gradually be increased until the year 2020.

This is part of the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 plan to develop students who can think critically and creatively.

Ultimately this is to create generations of resilient students that can face the challenges of the working world in the future.

Despite being around for the past few years, there are still teachers struggling to teach their students the skills needed to tackle these types of examination questions.

“Teachers are not prepared to develop HOTS among their students,” says the former director of the Examination Syndicate Datin Nawal Salleh (pic).

She adds that teachers need to develop HOTS first before they can impart their knowledge to their charges.

This year, the Leaps of Knowledge Conference had fun and engaging workshops to help parents and teachers understand education through gamification and how HOTS can be incorporated into teaching and learning.

“What we are trying to do now is to develop HOTS in the classroom,” she tells StarEducate.

Although not easy, Nawal offers a few ideas that are easily implemented.

She says that teachers can kickstart a student’s curiosity the moment they enter the classroom by asking questions.

Curiosity is a key requirement to develop HOTS.

She says an example of a HOTS question is “Why do you think leaves are green?”

This thought-provoking question has many answers such as “because of the chlorophyll” and also “because the leaves reflect green light.”

An open question like this requires the student to think critically and creatively to come up with the answer, she adds.

HOTS questions need to be opinion-based as well, she explains.

“We are actually trying to stimulate the thinking process.”

Nawal says a sign a child is using HOTS in the classroom is when they ask questions.

Teachers should encourage the children to voice their thoughts and queries, she says.

“If you want to develop their critical thinking skills, you have to provoke and encourage the students to ask questions,” she adds.

Assuming students ask a difficult question, the teacher should not just brush it aside.

Instead, Nawal says the teacher should act as a “facilitator” and help the students find the answer on their own.

She also says a classroom should not be “too quiet” as it is a clear sign that one-way teaching is going on.

A lively classroom means the students are actively taking part in the teaching and learning process.

Nawal stresses that HOTS questions are now necessary to break the cycle of rote-learning and develop students who are creative and critical-thining problem-solvers

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IP undermines equity, progress

Monday, February 26th, 2018
A lab technician demonstrating DNA testing at the Puntland Forensic Centre in Somalia. The World Trade Organisation rules disallow Indian generic manufacturers from exporting their medicines to Africa and other poor countries. AFP PIC

OVER the last few decades, people in the developing world have been rejecting the intellectual property (IP) regime as it has been increasingly imposed on them following the establishment of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), including its trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPs) regime.

IP rights (IPRs) have been enforced through ostensible free-trade agreements (FTAs) and investment treaties among two or more partners.

Despite their ostensible rationale, the IP standards that rich country governments insist on have never been intended to maximise scientific progress and technological innovation. Rather, the IPR regime serves to maximise the profits of influential pharmaceutical and other companies by conferring them with exclusive monopoly rights.

In the pushback, initially led by Nelson Mandela soon after he became South African president under the new dispensation in 1994, developing countries have targeted access to essential medicines. Thus, the 2005 Indian law to conform to WTO’s TRIPs safeguarded access to generic equivalents, as allowed for by the public health exception to TRIPs.

However, WTO rules disallow Indian generic manufacturers from exporting their medicines to Africa and other poor countries lacking the necessary pharmaceutical manufacturing capacities and capabilities. Even if the African countries could produce the drugs domestically, they would be more expensive as they would lack the economies of scale required to lower costs in their relatively small economies.

In Innovation, Intellectual Property and Development, Joseph Stiglitz, Dean Baker and Arjun Jayadev have shown that the economic institutions and laws protecting knowledge in Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development economies not only poorly govern economic activity, but are also ill-suited to developing countries’ needs, especially the global commitment to achieving universal health care of Agenda 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals.

Ironically, while the case for more openness in sharing knowledge is compelling, “neo-liberals”, who typically claim the moral high ground in opposing monopolies and related market distortions, have effectively served to extend and strengthen property rights and attendant monopolies.

From an economic perspective, knowledge is considered a global public good, as the marginal cost of anyone using it is zero. Growth of knowledge can presumably improve wellbeing.

Despite lack of evidence, the IP advocacy argument has been that market forces “undersupply” knowledge owing to the poor incentives for research and innovation. The usual claim is that this “market failure” is best corrected by providing a private monopoly through property rights for new knowledge, for example through enforceable patent rights. Private IP protection is presumed to be the only way to reward, and thus encourage research and innovation.

The trio argue that the IP regime has been much more problematic than expected, even in rich countries. They show how the 2013 United States Supreme Court decision that naturally occurring genes cannot be patented has shown that the IP regime impedes, rather than stimulates research by limiting access to knowledge.

Following the ruling, innovation accelerated, leading to better diagnostic tests (for example, for genes related to breast cancer) at much lower cost. Stiglitz, Baker and Jayadev focus on three alternatives to motivate and finance research in the US context. First, through centralised mechanisms to directly support research. Second, by decentralising direct funding, for example via tax credits, government bodies or research foundations or institutions can reward successful innovations or findings.

The patent system rewards legal ownership of innovation, but impedes the use of that knowledge by others, thus reducing its potential benefits. Having a creative commons, for example open-source software, will maximise the flow of knowledge.

The authors recommend that developing economies use all these approaches to promote learning and innovation. They view the gap between developing and developed countries as involving a gap in knowledge comparable to the gap in resources.

Hence, to improve economic welfare in the world, they urge diffusion of knowledge from developed to developing countries, as conventional social scientists have urged as part of modernisation theory for more than half a century.

Often, dense “patent thickets”, requiring many patents, are increasingly stifling innovation. Payments to lawyers and patent investigators exceed those to scientific researchers in such cases, with research often oriented to extend, broaden and leverage monopoly rights due to patents.

One perverse consequence has been patent “trolling” by speculators who buy up patents, which they think has a chance of being necessary for any product or process innovation. Thus becoming gatekeepers like the mythical trolls, they effectively block innovation unless their price is met.

Ironically, while the case for more openness in sharing knowledge is compelling, “neo-liberals”, who claim the moral high ground in opposing monopolies and related market distortions, have effectively served to extend and strengthen property rights and attendant monopolies.

Powerful corporate and developed economy government lobbies have influenced the IP regime, for instance by opposing competing rights associated with nature, biodiversity or even traditional knowledge.

Hence, recent ostensible FTAs have extended IPRs to cover “biologics”, i.e. naturally occurring substances, such as insulin for those suffering from diabetes, which is derived from mammals.

Thus, over the last few decades, the evolving IP regime has erected more barriers to widespread use of new knowledge. The current IP regime serves to maximise profits for a few monopolies rather than the progress and welfare of the many.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram.

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Can one learn to be creative?

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018
Research has shown that creativity is a skill that can be taught, practised and developed. With imagination, we can be wired to be creative. FILE PIC

IN the next few years, more than three generations may be working side by side at the workplace. They are the Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y (also known as millennials) and Generation Z.

Gen Z, who were born after 1995, are beginning to appear in the workplace. By next year, Gen Z is expected to represent more than 20 per cent of the workforce.

Growing up in a world where the Internet, social media and mobile technology have always existed, they will bring their new technology and big ideas with them. It can be a significant challenge to prepare for the clash of these four generations.

Many organisations are still struggling to analyse the challenge that millennials pose in the workplace.

But, how different will Gen Z really be? A digitally innate generation of students, Gen Z have access to more information than the generations before them. Growing up in the age of technology provides them with more outlets and digital tools for exploration and expression.

So, they are said to be more curious, innovative and open-minded than past generations.

While they should be more advanced in searching for information and figuring things out on their own, they also expect everything to be available at any time and with low barriers of access. With Gen Z starting university and the first batch graduating soon, are the schools preparing them for their future? Is higher education ready for them?

A study done by Adobe that provides insight into Malaysian Gen Z students shows that they are feeling unprepared for the problems the “real world” face today, and want greater focus on creativity and hands-on learning in the classroom.

The study, “Gen Z in the Classroom: Creating the Future”, surveyed 250 Gen Z students between the ages of 11 and 17, and 100 teachers in Malaysia.

A similar study was also conducted in five Asia-Pacific (Apac) countries — Australia, India, Thailand, China and Korea. For Malaysia, they found 97 per cent of students and 100 per cent of teachers — the highest rating among five other countries — see creativity as essential to students’ future success.

Malaysian Gen Z students also have mixed emotions when it comes to their future after they finish schools.

According to the study, they feel “excited” and “curious”, but at the same time “nervous” or “worried”. Some are concerned that schools have not properly prepared them for the real world.

They believe that there are a variety of careers that require creativity. Ninety six per cent of students from this study believe their future careers would involve creativity.

Both students and teachers alike agree that Gen Z learn best through hands-on experience and wish that there is more focus on creativity. Students feel that classes focusing on computers and technology hone their creativity and will best prepare them for their future.

Developing creative people is an aim that most in education share; there have been growing calls to nurture and teach creativity from an early age in schools and universities.

The World Economic Forum predicts that creativity will rise from the 10th most sought-after skill in 2015 to the third in 2020.

But, what is creativity? It can seem that creativity is a natural gift for those who are lucky, for instance, great artists, musicians or entrepreneurs. Can one learn to be creative? Can we prime the mind for creative ideas to emerge?

Research has shown that creativity is a skill that can be taught, practised and developed. With imagination, we can be wired to be creative. Creative thinkers in any discipline are those who can tackle complex problems and develop innovative solutions.

Of course, this does not mean that you can teach one to be a genius. The techniques of teaching creativity are not going to turn a student into Einstein or Picasso.

It is more about encouraging day-to-day creative thinking that can make a student, and then later, as an adult, more productive.

Many educators claim to value creativity, but they do not always prioritise it. In some parts of the world, teaching creativity is already a necessary part of an undergraduate experience.

The International Centre for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State College in New York is the world’s first university department of its type.

The term “makerspace” in education — probably still new in Malaysia’s education scene — is also the buzzword now to refer to physical spaces that support learning and doing, in a way that redefines traditional schooling. It provides hands-on experiences and encourages creative ways for students to design, experiment, build and invent.

How can creativity be cultivated in the classroom? The way Gen Z students consume and learn today is very different from past generations, hence, educators in Malaysia need to provide the right environment, updated tools and creative outlets to bring out the best in their students and foster innovative problem-solving skills the future workforce will need.

Education systems should focus less on the reproduction of information and more on critical thinking and problem solving. There are multiple solutions to open-ended and complex problems, a situation that the students will face as they pursue future careers.

Encouraging divergent instead of convergent thinking leads to solving problems that do not have one correct answer.

However, it is important to remember that teaching creativity does not mean that we should throw out the textbooks and exams while encouraging children to let their minds wander rather than concentrate in the classroom.


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Teachers given deadline flexibility in completing i-Think course: Education Ministry.

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017
The Education Ministry has decided to allow teachers the flexibility to complete the i-Think offline course at their own pace. (File pix)

KUALA LUMPUR: The Education Ministry has decided to allow teachers the flexibility to complete the i-Think offline course at their own pace.

The decision was made over worries that educators are becoming overwhelmed by having to complete the Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) –related course on top of performing their routine duties.

“We are concerned about the anxiety experienced by teachers who are required to take (the course) now (and complete it by the end of the month).

“This is why we are giving the teachers and school administrators the flexibility to complete their i-Think course when they can.

“At the same time, we are upgrading the implementation of the course by cutting down the number of modules that have to be taken,” it said in a statement today.

Another factor which influenced the Ministry’s decision is technical issues with the i-Think website, which has crashed repeatedly over the past week.

In a circular issued recently, the National Union of Teaching Profession (NUTP) advised educators experiencing problems with the website to forward their complaints, together with screen captures of the online issues they are facing to them.

The NUTP also assured teachers that it would back them in the event that the Ministry takes action against them for their failure to complete i-Think-related assignments.

By Veena Babula.

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WISE17:Education System Reform Must Develop Student’s Critical Mind And Skills

Friday, November 17th, 2017

DOHA, Nov 15 (Bernama) — Comprehensive reforms in education must include curricula and pedagogies that develop students’ critical mind and their skills in examining various issues away from their stereotypical thinking.

Chairman of Qatar Foundation, Sheikha Moza Nasser said it was vital for the education system to equip students with tools that gives them cultural and media immunity.

“Through media and information literacy in school curricula, students will be empowered to observe media discourse and examine political rhetoric from a critical perspective. It would give them keen insight to differentiate between what is real and fake on the internet,” she said at the opening ceremony of the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) 2017, here today.

Sheikha Moza said through education, the current generation will be able to protect the future generation against dangerous mind games from both known and unknown entities that use cyberspace as their playground.

She said the internet revolution had created a virtual world that deals with reality selectively, validating only its credibility.

“This jeopardised truth to a point that begs cross-examination,” she said.

Sheikha Moza also expressed her concern that the social media has become cluttered with organised activities that spread propaganda, rumours and lies to divert people’s attention away from reality and truth, and towards what is propagated as real or true.

“When these practices become common place in our world, the outcome would certainly be fake facts presented as alternative truths, which we accept in this so-called ‘post-truth’ world,” she added.

Meanwhile, at the same event, the Founder of Ashesi University from Ghana, Dr Patrick Awuah, has been named as the recipient of the WISE 2017 Prize for Education Award for transforming education in Africa.

Also present at the opening ceremony was the First Lady of Turkey, Emine Erdogan.

by Anas Abu Hassan


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113 Schools Attain Good Or Excellent Level In HOTS

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 8 (Bernama) — Some 113 schools across the country have reached good or excellent level in the Kemahiran Berfikir Aras Tinggi (KBAT) or Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) learning rating assessment.

Deputy Education Minister, Datuk P. Kamalanathan said the number made up 40.07 percent of the total number while 169 schools or 59.93 percent were below the good or excellent level, and these schools were being guided by the School Improvement Partners (SIP+) and School Improvement Specialist Coaches (SISC+).

However, he said, the performance and results of the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) 2016 could not be compared to that of previous years as the format and instruments for the UPSR last year were based on the Standard Curriculum for Primary Schools (KSSR).

Kamalanathan said 282 schools (one national primary school and one national secondary school for every 141 districts) have gone through the HOTS best practice rating assessment at school through their respective board of governors and quality assurance. Hence, the 2016 UPSR performance cannot be said to be up or down.

“The HOTS implementation assessment can only be done after the analysis of the 2017 UPSR results has been obtained and comparing the students performance based on quality, consistency, accuracy and fairness,” he said at the Dewan Rakyat sitting, here, today.

He was replying to a question from Nik Mohamad Abduh Nik Abdul Aziz (PAS-Pasir Mas) on the effects of the implementation of the HOTS policy in primary schools following the results of the 2016 UPSR.

Kamalanathan said inculcation of HOTS in the national education system using a comprehensive and systematic approach, covered seven elements, namely curriculum, pedagogy, assessment, co-curriculum, community and private sector support, resources and building capacity to make possessing higher order thinking skills a culture among teachers and pupils.

He said HOTS was incorporated into the school curriculum so that the pupils would not just memorise but have high-level thinking by acquiring skills to evaluate, apply, analyse and create.


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Warming up to HOTS

Sunday, September 17th, 2017

HIGHER order thinking skills (HOTS) questions are starting to make a positive impact among Malaysian students.

HOTS questions are part of the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025, which was implemented into the school system to spark a new trend in the way young Malaysians learn and acquire knowledge.

Private companies are also putting efforts to develop necessary skills and competencies in students to enhance their future marketability.

One such company is HRCA Mega Events Sdn Bhd, a firm that emphasises on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and maths) education.

It organised a science competition for upper secondary school students in July.

Participants were required to answer 30 multiple choice HOTS questions on Physics, Biology, Chemistry, and Additional Mathematics within a time frame of 20 minutes.

Thirteen students from SMK Bandar Utama Damansara (4) (SMK BUD 4) took part in the challenge, winning the school a total of six medals – three gold and three silver. They were among 782 students from local schools who took part in the event.

The SMK BUD 4 participants, said they enjoyed the competition, which incorporated mostly HOTS questions.

“Though more challenging, HOTS questions stimulates ideas and opinions, making me think outside the box,” said Esther Chew Li-Wen.

The 16-year-old added that the competition was a good experienceas she had to prepare for it by reading up to gain more knowledge. It also exposed her to a variety of HOTS questions.

Sulaiman Redza Suhaimi said that the competition taught him something new that he had not learnt in school.

“It makes me think harder as the questions are not easy. The emphasis was more on my ability to understand and explain.

“It prepares me to face future exams that could be even more difficult than what I had just sat for.

“HOTS questions give students an opportunity to answer questions in a different manner, something you can give your own elaboration to rather than a textbook answer,” said the 16-year-old who added that the competition was an “eye opener”.

Another participant Wendy Lee Xiu Teng shared Li-Wen and Sulaiman Redza’s sentiments.

Describing HOTS questions as “interesting”, she said it involved knowledge and information that was not always taught in class. “It also expands my knowledge on the English language because there were so many words I have not come across. It is a ‘revelation’ when you find out the correct meaning and answers later on,” she added.

“The competition also tests us on how we perform under pressure. In the real world, you have to work with deadlines,” she said

The school’s Science teacher Datin Sunita Devi Om Prakash Sharma, who won HRCA’s Best Teacher Award, said she spent time in encouraging her students to join extra-curricular events.

“Out-of-school competitions and activities bring out the best in students as they have to use their own ideas creatively withoutrelying on their textbooks alone, she said. .

The school’s head of department for Maths and Science Ravinderan Veloo Nair said HOTS questions have helped students develop critical thinking skills which in turn enabled them to think out of the box.

“We always encourage students to take part in competitions as they provide good exposure and platforms for them to try out new things other than school-based education.

“It also encourages and gets them interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), which is rapidly dropping in popularity,” he added.

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A better life with critical thinking

Saturday, August 19th, 2017
Successful critical thinking involves self-directed, self-disciplined and self-corrective thinking. FILE PIc

WE all think — it’s in our nature to do so. But, left to itself, most of our thinking is inadvertently biased, uninformed, partial and often prejudiced. Our quality of life depends on the quality of our thoughts. It is, therefore, imperative to learn and cultivate excellence in thinking.

At the tender age of 2, my son discovered the all-important word “why”. There and then, I vowed to never answer him with a simple “because I said so”.

At 10, he triumphantly declared that Britney Spears was actually 56 years old, but she had a lotion that made her appear to be 21. This was a fact; he had read it on the Internet. What, on earth, had gone wrong?

The unstoppable force that is the appeal of fast facts found on the World Wide Web had clearly wiped out all my, as well as his teachers’ efforts, to instil common sense and critical thinking into his young mind.

A quick search on “Internet said” gives us the definition of critical thinking as “the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue to form a judgment”.

And, the first example of a sentence reads, “professors often find it difficult to encourage critical thinking among their students”.

The lack of critical thinking among students is a frightening fact. It is so on more than one level. Obviously, if anybody should make it a habit to question information, to not take any fact for granted, to push academic boundaries and thus, reach for new discoveries, it should be the intellectual elite of the future.

After all, haven’t most of history’s defining social, philosophical and scientific transformations been fuelled by passionate young thinkers, unafraid to question the status quo, and willing to envision groundbreaking paths?

If we expect future generations to skillfully identify, analyse, assess, de- and re-construct concepts for the betterment of society, it is crucial that they be given the tools to do so. Successful critical thinking involves self-directed, self-disciplined and self-corrective thinking. This sounds like a handful, and it is.

Traditional education, usually delivered as teacher-centred feeding of information, is not conducive to the aforementioned skills nor to effective communication and problem-solving abilities, which critical thinking entails.

We live in a paradoxical age. Thriving companies seek to hire candidates who can demonstrate sound self-monitored, involved, thinking skills. Higher education professionals lament the lack of such abilities in their students.

Yet, people of little merit, albeit glorified on social media, operate as poor role models for young people’s attempt at judging objectively and thereupon thrive in the very complex world they are about to inherit.

Likewise, parents, teachers and even doctors all too often impose a strict hierarchy that leads to uninvolved and passive consumption of information.

Ultimately, the sound analysis and assessment of concepts demands careful gathering of relevant evidence. The sheer magnitude of available information makes this a somewhat Herculean task, as peer-reviewed sources and those of uncertain origin happily co-exist.

The evaluation of sources and points of view needs to be assessed, not only critically in terms of their objective truth and value, but also in their problem-solving capacity.

Like any other skill however, critical thinking needs to be taught, practised and encouraged from a very young age. When nurtured and developed within an educational process aimed directly at that end, good reasoning can become second nature.

This is not to profess disrespect for one’s elders and superiors, of course. It should not be confused with being argumentative or critical of other people.


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