kheru2006 (kheru2006) wrote,

Thinking Skills: Integrating pupils' mind skills

TWO reports -- "Nurturing good habits of the mind" and "Nurture thinking skills in kids" (NST, Nov 8) -- prompted me to pen down my thoughts.

It is good news that thinking skills have been bought back to the forefront.

About 20 years ago, the Education Ministry advocated "thinking across the curriculum" (kemahiran berfikir merentas kurikulum), with focus on critical and creative thinking (fondly called KBKK -- kemahiran berfikir secara kritis dan kreatif).

Essentially, school teachers who were subject specialists in, for example, Science, History and Geography, had to teach thinking skills in addition to the content of their subjects.

Many would assume that thinking would already take place while learning the contents of the subjects, as students needed to understand, apply, analyse, synthesise and evaluate the information learnt. So, why the fuss?

Unfortunately, it was not the case for many students.

The thinking that took place was only at the "lowest level" (but, not necessarily the easiest), namely, the memorisation of the contents of the subjects.

If what was memorised was of no use later, the information would be forgotten.

Good news that critical and creative thinking skills

 have been brought back to our classrooms via the
Malaysia Education Blueprint.
This is one reason why students, after taking a public examination, will forget what they had "learnt" after a few months. Thinking was done at a minimal.

As such, teachers had to make a conscious effort to teach thinking skills while teaching the subjects.

To help teachers, thinking skills were identified (i.e. critical and creative thinking). The techniques are called "integration" and "infusion" of thinking skills into the contents of the subjects.

The notion or concept was great, but the implementation was not.

Teachers grappled with the added tasks and problems included insufficient time to complete the syllabi.

It was not a marriage made in heaven, to marry thinking skills with the contents of the subjects.

The ministry also advocated the teaching of thinking skills without the need to learn the subjects at the same time.

Essentially, this meant language teachers could focus on the acquisition of thinking skills when they were doing comprehension, for example. This was not a "marriage", but more like the content-free subject (English or Bahasa Malaysia) becoming a vehicle to carry the thinking skills.

The hope was that in having learnt thinking skills this way, students could transfer them to other lessons. Obviously, this hope remains a hope.

But, the wheel has been turning. The NST reports were highlights from the 14th International Conference on Thinking (such conferences have been carried out for some 22 years now) that took place in Kuala Lumpur.

I hope the Malaysia Education Blueprint has noted the setbacks in the teaching and learning of thinking skills, and obtained new ideas and techniques to operationalise them to nurture the skills that should be internalised.

To quote the prime minister's wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor: "Through these processes, good thinking habits will be internalised from young and, systematically, supported along their journey into adulthood, so that they are ready to face the challenges of tomorrow and beyond" (NST, Nov 8).

Zaleha Izhab, Kuala Lumpur New Straits Times Online Opinion Letters-to-the-editor 16/11/2013

Tags: skills, thinking

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