After putting my thoughts together to start writing blogs on education scenario in Ghana, I encouraged myself to start with my own experience of encounters with academia in last few years.
One of the topics making round in the academic circle nowadays is critical thinking. Suddenly in the last couple of years, this “new” thinking approach has gained a lot of momentum in content development in private universities of Ghana. By heading one of private colleges here, I was also not left untouched with this force of critical thinking. I have always believed since my early days of career, that to think critically on any of the issues is a way to make effective and well informed decisions.
Through my interaction with numerous programme panels across multiple content development and approval processes, I was really energised by the strength in which almost all members emphasised on the importance of teaching Critical Thinking across all undergraduate programmes in Ghana. I also total agree on the importance of inculcating critical thinking ability in our students in Ghana which will improve upon their logical reasoning, thinking and judgment making ability, which is very important for their success in personal and professional life. But is it important to teach this as a subject which students will study to get a better grade!!! I thought to do a critical thinking on this idea itself and used my online information searching ability to know more about what’s happening in and around the world on this issue.
These discussions excited me to do some more research over how this course is being taught and practically used by students across globe, more specifically in other tertiary developed African countries. Before I would go further, let me bring together some of the most commonly used definitions of Critical Thinking:
- Oxford Dictionary defines Critical Thinking as ” the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement”.
- As per Businessdictionary.com Critical Thinking is “objective examination of assumptions (adopted riles of thumb) underlying current beliefs to assess their correctness and legitimacy, and thus to validate or invalidate the beliefs”.
- As per criticalthinking.org “Critical Thinking is a rich concept that has been developing throughout the past 2500 years. The term ‘critical thinking’ has its roots in the mid-late 20th century“.
To help me analyse my findings, I tried to study the pattern of teaching Critical Thinking in universities in Ghana and in few other countries. Upon visiting websites of some of the universities in UK, I found that Critical Thinking is used as a process of teaching in most of European universities, rather than teaching critical thinking as a course. As per University of Sussex website “critical thinking is at the heart of academic study, it’s more of a process, a way of thinking, understanding and expressing ourselves, than a single definable skill”. It further writes that “Fundamentally, critical thinking is about using your ability to reason.”
As per University of Leeds website “critical thinking at university does not mean looking only for the most important aspects of a topic or just criticising ideas. It is also about not accepting what you read or hear at face value, but always questioning the information, ideas and arguments you come across in your studies.” “As a university student, you need to be able to think critically about the resources and information you use in your work. You need to ask the right questions when reading the work of others; your writing needs to show you have the ability to weigh up different arguments and perspectives and use evidence to help you form your own opinions, arguments, theories and ideas. Critical thinking is about questioning and learning with an open mind.”
As per Bradford University website “Students who analyse theories, models, ideas and practices (TMIP) in an intelligent and objective way can gain good marks in assignments, compared to students who present accurate but just descriptive summaries of them.”
After searching over information available on websites of multiple universities and colleges in UK, I hardly found any of them teaching Critical Thinking as a course, but all have Critical Thinking included as a medium of teaching-learning in all their programmes, across all faculties, on offer to increase the critical thinking ability of their students which eventually increases student’s participation in classroom.
I did the similar search through universities in South Africa, which gave a differing result. University of Cape Town offers Critical Thinking as a course in undergraduate programmes in Economics, Curatorship, Philosophy, Religious Studies and Information Systems. Critical thinking as a course is offered in the first year of the UG programmes in this university. As per information available on the website for other South African universities, they don’t offer Critical Thinking as a course or have mentioned about using Critical Thinking in their teaching-learning process.
Ghana seems to be far ahead if compared with their counterparts in South Africa. Most of the Ghanaian universities (private) offer Critical Thinking as a course in their undergraduate programmes. But unfortunately none of them have mentioned about using Critical Thinking as a tool for teaching-learning. Moreover I don’t see any agreement within all private universities in Ghana on which level to teach Critical Thinking in their UG programmes. This course is being taught in Level 100 in some of the universities, whereas other teaches them in level 200.
It was also revealed that Critical Thinking as a course is concentrated mostly in Business, Computer Science, Engineering and Information Technology programmes.
These findings raise serious questions which we need to answer:
- What is the overall objective of curriculum developers in including Critical Thinking in UG programmes?
- If, at all it has to be offered, should it not be made to be offered at the first year of the programme of study?
- Why should be Critical Thinking taught as a course and not as a tool in teaching-learning?
It’s good that we want to adopt global courses in education in universities in Ghana, but we must also understand in this globalized world, our graduates must be equipped with logical and reasoning skills, they must be able to form their own opinion about well-established theories and facts and they must be able to provide solutions with multiple options for various problems. They must be able to question and justify their reasoning with facts. Can this be achieved by teaching only Critical Thinking as a subject, which students can pass, but not use? Or this has to be achieved through using Critical Thinking skills in teaching-learning process itself.
I feel that academic staffs and student, both should be trained on using Critical Thinking abilities in their programme of study at university and our focus should not be to only teach this as a course. This will definitely help in further improving quality of our graduates in Ghana.
“Critical thinking is self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way.” – www.criticalthinking.org
Blogger: Vivek Verma
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