Doha Independent Preparatory School
Second Semester Project 2010 / 2011
IN THE ELT CONTEXT
Written by :
Ahmad Abdurrahman Khalid – English Teacher
Critical thinking is a very important skill for preparing successful citizens and students for a rapidly changing and challenging world. A prominent international language like English is very important for achieving critical thinking within the Qatari language education context. However, certain factors in the Qatari English language teaching (ELT) system influence the acquisition of English language, which in turn has its direct negative implications for the acquisition of critical thinking skills. These factors are the teachers, syllabus, assessment, and the non-ELT system. This chapter hence critically discusses these four factors and attempts to draw conclusions about ways of incorporating critical thinking skills within the Qatari ELT context to produce better trained and prepared students who can contribute to their well-being and building modern Qatar .
Critical thinking is a very important skill for the development of students. Its importance has been highlighted by many writers in the education literature. However, the literature on English language teaching (ELT) is short of publications that establish a link between English language and critical thinking and highlight the importance of English language as a fundamental tool for acquiring a vital skill like critical thinking. Thus, while ELT in Qatar has been suffering from planning and implementation drawbacks over the past four decades or so , the incorporation of critical thinking has been more or less missing from the Qatari ELT classrooms for different reasons. Four factors are considered to impede using English and thinking about it critically in the Qatari ELT context. These are the teachers, syllabus, assessment, and the non-ELT system. This chapter will offer a critical discussion of these factors and attempt to propose solutions.
Critical thinking is rooted in history (ancient Greek 2,500 years ago) and in different cultures such as the Indian, Chinese, and Islamic culture, for example, where it has appeared in some verses of the Holy Quran, which was revealed to Prophet Mohammed (peace and prayers be upon him & his progeny) over 14 centuries ago. Islam calls upon its followers to observe, ask questions, reflect, and ponder about Allah’s creations and different aspects of life in order to affirm their faith, learn, raise their awareness, develop some kind of wisdom, and become educated, as “education involves questioning, researching, forming opinions, verifying ideas and thoughts and then reaching a sound conclusion” (Mazhar, 2003). Mazhar blames Muslims nowadays for failing to understand Islam through losing their ability to respect the search of knowledge, although knowledge does not have limits and is ever-changing and developing. He further blames them for accepting blindly what is thrown at them. In other words, Mazhar accuses Muslims of being ignorant and lacking development and success due to failing to think critically. Mazhar argues that Muslims nowadays have given up asking good and effective questions and seeking knowledge in the age of information explosion, rapid technological changes, and complex social and political problems. In brief, Mazhar firmly believes that Muslims today lack the ability to make decisions and make good judgements due to lacking critical thinking skills. Several writers (for example, Chance, 1986; Facione, 1990; Schafersman, 1991; Burkhalter, 1993; Beyer, 1995; Scriven & Paul, 1996; Kabilan, 2000; Halvorsen, 2005; & Algozlu, 2007) thus attempted to define critical thinking. There is a consensus across the literature that critical thinking/inquiry, or else known as...
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