Schools should focus on ‘Higher Order Thinking’ to foster independent thinkers

School children Malaysia

I read with interest a recent report where the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general Fouzi Singon said the new education curriculum must make learning fun and enhance critical thinking.

Fouzi’s comments came after Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek’s said that teachers would have greater autonomy when the new curriculum comes into force in 2027.

It is good that we are talking about the proposed changes in the curriculum after an alarming report by the World Bank – Bending Bamboo Shoots: Strengthening Foundation Skills  – found that by the conclusion of Standard 5, only 58 per cent of Malaysian students could read proficiently, much lower than their regional counterparts (34 per cent).

It is sad that a country like Malaysia has such low reading proficiency when government schooling is free. If students enjoy learning, we may increase reading proficiency in the country.

Going back to what Fouzi said, I agree 100 per cent that learning should be fun, and we need more thinking students.

These two key areas have been the cornerstone of what my school, Global Oak Tree Scholars (GOTS) International School, has practised from the start.

We believe that a ‘Happy School’ is one where the students love attending every day. We do that by providing a learning environment that promotes happiness, well-being, and a sense of belonging among students, faculty, staff, and the larger school community.

I believe government schools can be inviting if they have more project-based learning activities, instead of focusing on textbooks.
Allowing students to “do things” instead of reading about an activity will help them immerse themselves in the lessons.

We should also encourage students to speak up and express their thoughts. We must inspire the students to think for themselves as we need independent thinkers.

This type of learning is ‘Higher Order Thinking’, or HOT. It is about ‘thinking on a level higher than memorising facts or repeating what was said by a teacher’.

Children learn to identify, scrutinise, and evaluate information by participating in HOT. At that point, the kids can make connections between information, grow in logic, be creative thinkers, and acquire problem-solving skills.

Having group conversations, posing varied questions, informing students of the learning objectives, letting them review and improve their comprehension of the course materials, and promoting critical thinking are some of the processes in creating HOT.

As educators, it is our job to give a voice to our students, to help them think independently and analyse facts.

They must be allowed to present their findings, have healthy debates, and learn to think for themselves once they leave school.

All teachers want the best for their students. Greater autonomy in the new curriculum will allow those who think outside the box to thrive.

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