Critical and Creative Thinking

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Critical and creative thinking is regaining its popularity in the global education scene. This resurgence in popularity can be attributed to the demands of the evolving economic, political, social and technological world in the 21st century. The competitiveness of the global market demands corporations to constantly innovate. To do so, corporations need employees who are able to think critically and creatively. Barren of natural resources, Singapore depends on its human population for economic survival. Education then becomes a key instrument in promoting the state’s economic development. In 1959, the Ministry of Education issued a report, asserting that, ‘the government’s education policy is designed to equip the youth of the State with requisite skills, aptitudes and attitudes for employment in industry’, and it has not changed since then. So, as we move into the 21st century, the government has termed critical and creative thinking as skills that all students should develop within themselves. The education system acts an agent to instill such skills in the younger generation. The objective of this paper is to discuss the possibility of facilitating the development of critical and creative thinking among students in the current Singapore education system. So, we shall begin this paper by introducing the concepts of critical and creative thinking. Next, we shall study factors in the current Singapore education system that influence the development of critical and creative thinking among students. Following that, we shall describe strategies that need to be in place, or removed, to facilitate the development of thinking.

Michael Scriven and Richard Paul define critical thinking as the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action (Scriven & Paul). Critical thinking is skillful, responsible thinking that facilitates good judgment because it relies upon criteria, is self-correcting, and is sensitive to context (Ornstein, Pajak, & Ornstein, 2007). It can be fostered by aiding students to process information in meaningful ways, and to become independent and self-regulated learners (Tan & Law, 2002). Creativity is the ability to think about something in novel and unusual ways and come up with unique solutions to problems (Santrock, 2004). If creativity is seen as a thinking process, it can be categorized as a form of divergent thinking. Divergent thinking is thinking with the aim of producing many answers to the same question. This is in contrast to convergent thinking, as distinguished by Guilford (1967), which is thinking with the aim of producing one correct answer (Santrock, 2004). Creative thinking can be fostered by moving beyond the conventional educational objectives that end at acquiring knowledge and skills (Tan & Law, 2002). Thinking critically and creatively enhances learning. Thus knowing how learning occurs and the role of critical and creative thinking in learning are important. Learning can be viewed from the constructivist approach or the behaviourist approach.

Constructivism is a theory, which proposes that learning occurs when learners activate their cognitive structures or pre-existing schema to fit new experiences. This can be seen more clearly from Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. In the first stage, schemata or cognitive structures are required to organize concepts and information. In the assimilation stage, one integrates new experiences into an existing schema. If there is no schema into which new data can be fit, the process of assimilation cannot take place. Then, new schema has to be created. This process is known as accommodation and it should always be balanced with the process of assimilation. This state of balance is called equilibrium. On the other hand,...
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