Kelly McIntosh, Contributor
The evidence of poor problem-solving skills and the lack of ability to think critically is all too evident in the state of Jamaica today. Sure enough, corruption is at the root of many of the issues that beset our nation, but we cannot downplay our collective ability (or lack thereof) to make sound decisions and to tackle complex issues.
We need to start now, as early as possible in the education system, to teach our young how to analyse problems, how to approach solutions, and how to think critically.
When I was younger, the challenge was ferreting out information to do projects and complete assignments for school. Many of us can remember having to go to an actual library and being guided by the index cards housed in the wooden catalogue drawers.
Fast-forward to 2013: the challenge now is to decide what information to discard! Students simply Google the question or the topic. I have had to teach my own children basic research skills like cross-referencing and fact- and source-checking as they wade through the plethora of available information.
I do not think it is possible to critically analyse any issue without a sound grasp of language. Again, we are at the mercy of this new information age. Children write in shorthand, use creative acronyms, and learn to express themselves in 140 characters or less (think Twitter!). And while creativity is good, and the ability to summarise useful, this must be balanced by other opportunities where ideas can be fleshed out and opinions challenged and defended.
Here are my proposals for equipping our young for success in the information age:
1 Encourage reading from early. This is best done by giving children access to information about what interests them. Your son who is interested in animals, for example, will not read that book that you thrust into his hands with the best intentions in the world about toys coming to life after dark.
2 From as early as kindergarten and basic school, emphasise compre-hension. Have the children do more than merely answer questions based on facts contained in the passage. They must be encouraged to criticise and imagine. This can be done individually, by writing, and collectively, in the form of class discussions.
3 Treat maths as a language describing a situation, yet providing the way to a solution through the application of basic steps one after another. Emphasise the understanding of the fundamentals over mechanical replication. The children need to be taught to determine what the particular maths problem is asking them to do and what information is provided. Once they understand the fundamental operations, application in search of a solution becomes intuitive, rooted in common sense, and not necessarily the purview of the ‘math genius’ in the class.
4 Relate everything taught to everyday life, so applicability is always at the forefront.
5 Simply have conversations with your children. When driving, turn off the radio and, most definitely, put down the cell phone. Ask them about their day. Talk about something you read in the papers or saw on the news. Ask them their opinions. Have them defend their point of view.
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