If we truly want to prepare our children for the future, we need to start teaching them to think creatively and critically.
By Helen Al Uzaizi
‘Teaching to the test’ has sadly become a common term; it happens when an entire curriculum is based on preparing students for a standardized test at the end of their education. Memorizing information with the sole purpose of passing a test limits the range of skills and knowledge students receive. Even more worryingly, it creates an unhealthy focus on memorization and repetition, limiting students’ ability to think creatively or critically.
This is not the best way to prepare young people for the future job market, as much of this knowledge will either be forgotten or irrelevant by the time they graduate and enter the labor force. It can also create a risky skills and qualifications gap when students graduate or a situation where the workforce is underperforming and inefficient.
Instead of teaching students ‘what to think’ we need to focus on ‘how to think’ so they are equipped with the capacity to make better decisions, have the independence and the confidence to be successful in their careers, no matter which path they choose.
The education system needs to nurture children’s critical thinking skills and move away from the memorize-repeat cycle. The system also needs to develop children’s creativity in addition to so many other personality traits that fuel entrepreneurs and professionals to thrive despite of the challenges they will surely face. But what are the best ways of going about this?
Nothing promotes creative thinking more than a healthy sense of curiosity. And to make students curious, teachers need to expose them to new sources of inspiration such as art, music, stories, and different cultures. When we condition students to find inspiration and be curious about the world around them, we are essentially priming them for future growth. Creativity is extremely important because in a highly-competitive world it’s the innovators and forward thinkers that truly succeed, relying on their ability to think differently and come up with new ways of looking at old problems.
Collaboration and Teamwork
Team projects are an effective method of helping children develop critical thinking skills as they have to share ideas, communicate, and learn how to work in a group dynamic. Working in a team also teaches students how to defend their opinions, a vital skill they will need in their future careers if they ever want to be promoted or convince new clients to work with them if they are entrepreneurs. An added benefit of collaboration is developing a sense of empathy by giving students an opportunity to understand their team members’ emotions and motivations, another vital skill for the future.
An integral component of critical thinking is knowing which information can be trusted—in other words, what is credible and what isn’t. To be effective in business and in life, students need to learn how to sort knowledge in order to identify useful facts in order to solve problems. The ability of students to judge the value and credibility of information will serve them greatly as they start their careers, making them better decision makers. In addition, this same ability will help them in their personal lives, making them well-informed citizens who are more likely to be active in making their society more progressive.
What limits students from achieving their ambitions? It boils down to their self-confidence and what they believe they can accomplish. Students are born with the capacity for creativity, however, their environment at school or at home may limit this ability and dampen their sense of confidence. We need to nurture their self-confidence at home and school by giving children a sense of independence, letting them make their own decisions and understanding the consequences, supporting their special interests and hobbies, in addition to encouraging optimism about their future.
If we want the education system to act as a springboard for youth in Jordan to lead successful and fulfilling lives, we need to equip them with the interpersonal skills they will need in the future. The points mentioned above are practical and low-cost steps that can be applied in both public and private schools at the elementary level. This will be an important first step in truly transforming the Jordanian education system.
In addition to these skills, we also need to educate them with the future in mind, which means nurturing individuals who can grow to become entrepreneurs, not just adults who pursue traditional employment. To be capable entrepreneurs that go on to create jobs and drive the economy forward, they need to be prepared and hardwired with the right skills to succeed at an early age. They also need to have some foundations grounded in financial literacy.
We have been saying that children are our future, but to achieve a better future we also need to start investing in them and in their education, so they not only live up to their own potential, but make Jordan more competitive on the regional and global levels.
Helen Al Uzaizi is the CEO of BizWorld Jordan & UAE and founder of the entrepreneurship education platform for the MENA region, Future Entrepreneurs.