Critical thinking is structured thinking. For years it has been a key trait championed by educators and educational scholars worldwide. From classrooms to the White House, the ability to evaluate one’s own thinking has always been top priority.
Critical thinking goes beyond memorisation. Schools are expected to encourage students to connect the dots between problem solving, thinking creatively and applying the knowledge they gain both to their future studies and to everyday life.
To thrive in the sciences, arts, finance, law, management, or any other field, having the “values of inquiry” such as precision, clarity, depth and breadth of treatment, coherence, significance and relevance, is key. Critical thinking is an asset for any career and is especially important in the new knowledge economy. Here are four schools that provide the teaching, tools and opportunities to hone this cornerstone of 21st century education:
Bangkok Patana School is the oldest British international school in Thailand — Experienced? Yes. Traditional? No. The teaching, support and opportunities offered here are innovative and modern.
For one, consider the talent that makes up its faculty. Close to nine out of ten of the educators here are from the UK or other British international schools. These qualified and experienced teachers provide students with the best intellectual, physical and social preparation they need in order to take on future challenges. Just under one third of them have completed their master’s degrees, and a few others hold doctorate degrees.
Bangkok Patana is the only international school in the world where children as young as seven years old are introduced to Atomic Theory. Learning this fundamental theory develops their scientific literacy — and Bangkok Patana makes each lesson fun, enjoyable and inspiring. “The periodic table is like the alphabet and just like you use letters to make sentences, you can also use the periodic table to make molecules. In the same way that you arrange sentences to create literature, you arrange molecules to make chemical sentences. The kids understood right away that the world is made of invisible atoms that can be rearranged,” explains visiting scientist and founder of Atomic Schools Ian Stuart.
Then, there is the School’s “Flipped Learning” approach which puts students in the driver seat. Instead of the one-way approach of teachers telling students what they need to know, it gets students to be more active in their learning.
Students are provided with tasks and materials and they then proceed to independently plan and deliver accordingly. This approach allows students to develop their critical thinking skills, find out which methods suit them best, and improve how they digest information.
They can access video content and other materials at their own pace: pausing to reflect, rewinding to reinforce. “Flipped Learning provides students with predictable, manageable, achievable and valuable Home Learning, leading to lessons which are immediately engaging and challenging,” says John Burrell, Secondary School Biology teacher.
This method has led to more insightful discussions, sparked inquisitive questions, and essentially accelerated student progress in an overall supportive and innovative environment — all the makings of a school firmly focused on the future. Learn more about Flipped Learning here.
Founded in 2012, Branksome Hall Asia is Asia’s only girls’ IB Continuum School. It is committed to providing problem-based 21st century learning for pupils of all levels, from pre-K to Grade 12. The school is now open, offering face-to-face lessons with safety precautions set in place and continuing its 21st century educational model, built with exceptional faculty members and its team of technology integrators.
From new learning methods, to online classrooms and collaborative techniques, Branksome Hall Asia is equipping students with the tools and the awareness necessary to succeed. This includes nurturing students to develop key competencies such as critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving, communication, collaboration, design thinking, computational thinking, and scientific thinking.
Parents can expect an award-winning effort from Branksome Hall Asia in this aspect. At the International School Awards 2020, the school won in the category of “Initiative to support students as future-thinking innovators”, for its annual interdisciplinary units, and its approach to real world problem solving in consideration of social, economic and environmental impacts.
2020 is a year of transition — frustrating for parents, teachers, and students in many schools. At Branksome Hall Asia, however, any disruption has been kept to an absolute minimum. In many instances, the quality of learning is actually better. How did it achieve this, as well as its vision to be the pre-eminent educational community of globally-minded, meta-cognitive learners and leaders?
The answer lies in foresight. Thorough and ever-prepared, last year just one day after it was directed to close due to lockdown, the school embarked on eBranksome, which successfully enhanced the school’s existing programmes. It’s the natural progression for a school that is known for its strong digital literacy endeavours and emphasis on edtech.
Having a Director of Learning Technologies, one device to one child programme, Learning Management System and technology training for teachers — these features set Branksome Hall Asia apart from the rest, and it shows in its exam results and university acceptances. Find out more about its International Merit Scholarships here.
International School Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC) is an IB World School that combines outstanding academic achievement and overall development. The first international school in the city focuses on ensuring each child is cared for and given the time and consideration needed to be nurtured effectively.
Dedicated to the needs of students, ISHCMC has a primary campus and a secondary campus that are just within five kilometres of each other. Both campuses were carefully designed to provide a safe and secure 21st century learning experience for both age groups, catering to their respective educational needs.
Across grades, students are encouraged to set goals as teachers spend their time tracking individual student progress. They are provoked to think deeper, introspectively and in a transdisciplinary manner. ISHCMC believes that prioritising students as individuals provides them with the support they need to reach their full potential.
ISHCMC put together the Transition to Campus programme to conduct classes online for students who are new or have yet to be able to return to Vietnam because of shut borders.
Facilitated by an entirely digital environment, it provides opportunities for students to learn and grow continuously, even while they are away from school.
Besides that, it allows learners to work independently, develops their ability to self-direct, and provides opportunities to use tools and strategies to deeply develop skills in specific domains. The programme stays true to ISHCMC’s goal to develop creative and technologically advanced learners that are confident in their abilities to think independently and innovate.
Founded in 1997, Jerudong International School (JIS) is a co-educational boarding and day school in Brunei that welcomes students from ages two to 18. Most of the school’s qualified teachers are primarily from the UK. Educators are committed to providing a challenging curriculum that is sure to develop well-rounded students who will continue to progress to world-leading universities.
Jerudong’s student profile lists six key aims: Engagement, Leadership, Communication, Thinking, Resilience and Integration. Students are encouraged to strive to reach these aims regularly. Each time a student accomplishes something special that is in alignment with one of these aims, they are awarded with a Polio Point. Each earned point donates US$1 to UNICEF’s fight against Polio.
The school also encourages these aims by carrying it forward. Lessons are planned in a way that ensures students are challenging themselves healthily. As they continue to progress and develop the skills needed to be innovative collaborators and thinkers, ample support is provided. This support is to ensure students feel the sense of community and togetherness that Jerudong uplifts.
The end goal is to raise 21st century leaders with heart. With numerous opportunities from Junior School up to Senior School, JIS students can grow on a personal and professional scale at JIS, setting the pathway for them to become leaders of tomorrow.
*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International