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What is Critical Thinking?

Most of us have probably heard, and think we understand the concept and importance of “critical thinking”.  But I daresay that few really comprehend its significance and impact on a student’s ability to perform beyond primary schools levels.  In fact, it is clear from the changes in the English syllabus at Primary Five that the powers-that-be feel that it is imperative that Singaporeans be trained to think for themselves.

Critical thinking is essentially a logical assessment of a claim to establish our own belief in its truth.  It is an exercise that we can go through to solve problems systematically by

  • establishing theories or arguments
  • categorising and connecting related ideas and concepts across multiple fields to support arguments
  • ranking and evaluating ideas for relevance to arguments
  • reflecting on how findings impact our own individual values and beliefs

In other words, we use critical thinking to determine the truth for ourselves – to establish the big picture and use rational assumptions to fill in missing data.  The old adage of “reading between the lines” comes to mind.

Critical thinking is necessary for students to excel in their academic work.  It requires students not just to know facts, but to apply them to very specific situations.  It reflects the mental maturity of students, and separates those that truly understand the concepts from those that merely “remember” concepts.

Comprehension and oral tests are now used by educators to determine if students are not only able to understand the grammar and semantics of the passages, but are able to relate its ideas to other contexts.  In Science, the critical thinking skills of observation, comparison, classification, hypothesis creation, evaluation and analysis are repeatedly drilled into students across the different scientific fields.  In Math, the use of models to represent problem solving is another form of critical thinking.

So it is no wonder that we get so easily confused with what critical thinking really is.  The fact is, critical thinking applies to all disciplines and is not restricted to academia.  In school, the higher up we go, the more dependent are our grades on our ability to do critical thinking.  At work, the higher up we go, the more dependent is our performance (and salary) on our ability to do critical thinking!

Even in our social lives, the ability to do critical thinking is very important.  As adults and parents, many of us have rigid principles and beliefs that drive us and our personalities.  They are a function of our life experiences, forged from the baptism of fire of the trials and tribulations we encountered in our lives’ journeys.  We call this “wisdom“, and in most cases it serves us well.  But we must continuously re-evaluate our own value system as environments change and ask ourselves: “Are we making decisions based on our own ingrained opinions, or on actual facts?”  It is only when we can see beyond our prejudices that we can finally understand and accept the truth.

This will be a start of a series of articles by that will explore how parents can help their children to inculcate and practice critical thinking skills.  Make no mistake, acquiring critical thinking skills is very difficult.  It requires discipline, perseverance, and continous practice.  A proper state of mind is also necessary: the dogged sense of needing to know the truth, and being prepared to tear apart our long-time assumptions to accomodate new facts that might fundamentally change our perspectives.



Truly said

Learned concepts when applied also develops n gives confidence with the knowledge acquired


A great read!

Thanks for the article

Interesting and enlightening article.

This is deep analysis!

This is deep analysis!  Nice!

That’s an interesting thought – the idea that emphasis on critical thinking may lead to students who are better at critical than “thinking”.  But in order to be critical, one has to learn enough of the issue and apply it rationally to form a position or argument.  Critical thinking is not just about being able to question and criticise issues – it is about being able to apply learned concepts and develop a more holistic understanding of issues.  It is intended to lead to the discovery of new knowledge, instead of simply learning and understanding existing knowledge.

is critical thinking over-rated?

Critical thinking is important of course, but as a teacher I was concerned with whether or not we were placing way too much emphasis on it. Confucius said that “learning without thinking makes one confused, thinking without learning is detrimental” (学而不思则罔,思而不学则殆), implying that learning is the basis of thinking. Favouring thinking over learning seems to be, ironically, producing students who are good at being critical rather than being good at thinking.



thanks for this

very educational! 

important article

important article

Good post!


Good read!! 

Good read!! 

THanks for this ! 

THanks for this ! 

Thanks for writing this

I appreciate the time you took to write this. Thank you.

Critical Thinking Ideas

I also think that critical thinking is really important for the kids, especially in this 21st century. I believed it has to be cultivated since young, and best, to be included into plays so the kids can play and think at the same time! 

Critical thinking

Critical thinking is also related to culture. In the west, pp are more individualistic and assertive in their own opinion. In the east, however, there is group think, which means pressure to confirm to the rest. In Japan, there’s a saying that says – the one who up gets pounded down.

Good material

good material


Sometimes, it is not the case that Singaporean students are not critical in their thinking. As a lecturer, I don’t get disturebed when there is silence in the air. It may be my students are just reflective on the answer. Where’s in the American context, student are very action oriented and uncomfortable with silence. Hence, they tend to be more adventurous in this answers.

Critical Thking for Youths

I also get concerned that our youths are not critical thinkers. A reat way to improve your english and current affairs is to read the newspaper. You can make it less intimidating for the student by making read from the home section first. Discuss with them over the simpler content. To prepare them for GP, then they need greater current affairs knowledge so that they have the substance to write their essays. You are what you read.

A writer once said, who you will be next time will be the books you read now.


Life experiences

Critical thinking is difficult to input into a child but I strongly believe that giving a child many life experiences will help to develop this part of the brain.

A child’s life is not all about studying. It is also about bringing him out to play, to observe, to ask questions, to listen and to interact.

All these skills are important to a learning child.

really thinking for their own

really thinking for their own

Great article

Well said and great article. 

This also apply to us as adults.  We need to develop these skills in order to be adaptable on today’s world.

Very good article

well said 

Looking forward to the articles

Key objective of education

Critical thinking is definitely one of the most important objectives of education and it is rather unfortunate that in many cases, it would not be sufficiently developed.

good article

well said. Critical thinking is to think out of the box, and look at hidden information which might not be too obvious when first read.


Critical Thinking: Opening A Pandora's Box?

Nice article! The realm of critical thinking is not only in the education system but as adults we are also asked to adapt critical thinking process in our working lives.

But just extending it to children, embracing critical thinking for them means that as parents, we may also be challenged by kids who will enquiry our actions and thought-processes in our daily lives especially how we care for them.

That is, molding the mind of a young critical-thinker means that we as parents, need to either justify our actions more clearly and (we maybe challenged) or we may also see that our current actions maybe wrong and require the need to change.

Great article!

Great article you have here. Students indeed need to develop critical thinking skills in our schools today because this will greatly help them in their future endeavors in life. I know of a group of people whom you can turn to if you need help in this area for your kids. Here’s their site’s link 🙂

Thanks, Sun_2010!

Thanks, Sun_2010!  Cultivating critical thinking is a slow and frustrating process.  Let’s do what we can to get our kids (and ourselves) to become independent thinkers.

Good article chief. Looking

Good article chief.

Looking forward to the articles. More for myself. Little late but better to late than never. 




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