A very big part of our identity is based on what we do for life, is based on what we study, is based on what we want to leave as legacy, therefore studying or preparing for what you will do a good portion of your life should be a decision based more on your inner passion, your true talents, and should be tailor made to you and the needs you want to fulfill in the corporate or entrepreneurial world.
How is it that education has been not an asset but a disability during the past two decades? Why are school systems more worried for the money they can extract from the population than for the academic preparation? How can teachers be underprepared and one of the lowest paid?
All of theses questions raise a sense of questioning if studying a higher degree is the best option and how can you as a student or even as an employee who wants to specialize and grow extract the most value of what you are paying or receiving?
The first component to be discussed should be what do we expect from a graduate person?
It is clearer nowadays that school systems have been polluted, exploited and undermined by government and of course by a good portion of the industry sector, more alarming in third world countries where being educated seems to be a luxury for a very small fraction of the population and with governments that just want to standardize the ignorance and mediocrity of professionals.
School systems have started to develop a culture of less effort and more “standard thought” based on past and obsolete knowledge as a good portion of teachers are not updated in their field due to the amount of work hours they need to fulfill to survive, the lack of preparation in terms of pedagogic tools, and the poor training that many of them received in addition of also being undervalued for at least three to five decades.
This education pillar of what do we expect from professionals that graduate has also a very huge wall to face, which is also how corrupted and unconscious the industry sector including of course health systems are, if we pay attention to more than 70% of the workforce in any industry people is not satisfied with what they do, mostly because they feel undervalued, under recognized and of course in many instances unprepared for the job. Therefore very quickly we have arrived to a huge toxic circle that won’t be broken unless the government pays more attention to the quality of life they want for their individuals.
However this would include a “risk for them”, because they should start awaken people and empower them to know more themselves and to invest more time in applied skills, critical thinking and real life solutions than just preparing more sheeps to follow orders, procedures, comply with 8 hours independently of what they do or produce and of course never ever dare to challenge their superiors or have a different opinion from the rest of the “team”.
Why then do countries that worry for education more than any other sector strive and succeed in offering a much better quality of life for the population?
The answer is very simple though hurtful for government/political thinking and industry shareholders …
When people have a sense pf purpose in their lives, when they are encourage to embrace all of its abilities, passions, inner characteristics, when they are appreciated for what they can give as unique souls, as unique human beings and not because they are a sequential employee number then every person in its own niche starts giving their best abilities, their best knowledge and literally their heart to what they do!!
As a consequence people surrounded by happy and producing people will be infected and motivated to grow as well having a different mindset of “competition” that in those particular cases would be called a sense of community compassion and real team work, they would be worried to encourage people with more difficulties to follow the rhythm, they would contribute with new ideas and out of the box solutions to impulse a company that is concerned with their development, that promotes equity, that allows discussion of ideas and that has an equal payment policy in spite of gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation.
These countries that are “risking” their budget by investing in education have a vanguardist, innovative mentality that is projecting them to be ahead of the “others” in just a few years of investment, considering all the years that many education systems have been still and some even decaying into just being withdrawal money machines for people without real concern for the needs of each of the students (or now called clients by many private institutions).
Is it critical thinking one of the cornerstones of modern education systems?
The importance of critical thinking has been heralded for quite some time as being one of the most desirable outcomes of higher education. Proponents of critical thinking refer to it as the elixir of modern education. Taking up this very point in his inaugural speech, Professor Patrick Prendergast, the current Provost of Trinity College Dublin, emphasizes the importance of this asset, “He craves students who are every day wiser than they were yesterday; students engaged in lifelong learning, who are sound in their foundations but not stuck in their opinions. . .that’s [what] will reap most private benefit and sow most public good” (1).
In short, criticality comprises, ‘critical thinking, analytical reasoning, critical self-reflection and critical action’. Accordingly, these domains of criticality encompass: knowledge (critical reason), the self (critical reflection) and the world (critical action). The underlying purpose of education and educators is to “develop the capacities to think critically. . .to understand oneself critically and to act critically, thereby forming critical persons who are not subject to the world, but able to act autonomously and purposively within it” (1).
Can you even imagine the impact of forming these kind of professionals? Do you the power of those components embedded in the critical thinking education? If we are expecting a graduate student to be productive in “real world” shouldn’t it be with full knowledge of what he/she is doing?, Shouldn’t they have an inner thirst for new knowledge to become better at what they do?, Shouldn’t they be critical with themselves and their opinions to be able to have an open mind to the new discoveries, broken paradigms and creative thinking? Shouldn’t they be obsessed with a sense of community to help others (the world) by doing what they enjoy and they’re passionate about?
I guess anyone in their right mind would say Yes !! We need those kind of professionals, of graduate students, and this component of critical thinking starts with having the will for knowledge. However how can students choosing a higher level education be willing to learn if they have at least 10-15 years of education systems that have been conditioning them to think like the rest of the group, who have been conditioning them since their own family with an inheritance of a career that has to be continued, when they’re pretty much forced to continue studying?
That’s where things get more complicated, to start forming at higher education systems people with critical thinking, they should start at least in elementary school to develop that independence of knowledge, promoting activities where students (even with their own restrictions of neural development or critical thinking capacities) can start choosing what they like, can start detecting their own inner talents, where they are exposed to more real life situations where they can solve “small” problems and be faced with challenges, instead of making them repeat and repeat tasks like monkeys so they can do what the rest of the class do!!
Critical self reflection, the other component of critical thinking, will look more scary for government and industry sector married with the idea of dominance and power. This component should encourage students to know themselves and to make it even broader, I would suggest that this component allows the student to know what is their character, their self-image, their own inner value and this would imply to work with their emotional intelligence as well. People that know themselves, that are aware of their inner triggers, abilities and opportunity areas are more prone to be open to feedback, are less rigid to their own opinions and of course they’re more skillful to manage their ego in terms of contributing to the value of the community or the team.
Additionally this component would allow the student to course correct his/her journey towards acquiring more specificity in their field, and being more concerned with correct decisions that are more based on ethics, truth, equity and compassion for others as they are more in touch with those emotions due to the inner work they have been practicing. Self reflection would also add a very particular characteristic in the students, they would tend to question more the nature of their actions, ergo this would mean an awaken sense of responsibility for what they do, the impact of the actions and clarity on the result that they are looking for.
In this paragraph we have touched a key component of what many industry or health positions look for in an employee, clarity !!, when students are encourage to develop a sense of reflection, they are propelled to look for their purpose, during that joinery they will find the clarity that anyone would like in an employee and this would also apply for their own personal life.
And the third component, critical action, that refers to the world, to the community, would be the one with more weight in terms of the benefits we as a global population would want from everyone, imagine a graduated student that is motivated, encouraged and trained to look the benefit of first their own community, but right after the benefit of a more global impact!!
This is the dream society that everyone could ask, and that we were created for, we would have a lot more people concerned for others independently of nationality, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or any society created boundary, this would in turn allow our home (earth) to start recovering from all the damage we have produced to it. We would be able to enjoy a more friendly environment detached from ego’s, selfish interests, power driven decisions and as a global community we would be enlightened to connect to our attached origins, to our unique source, to our most powerful energy that it is the union of souls!!
Is it only a dream to achieve education systems based on these components?
Of course that No !! In my own humble opinion is what we the world should be moving to … Nevertheless this gigantic endeavor has to begin with individual consciousness that allows people to wake up from their selfish and egocentric behaviors that just promote the same illness of disconnection, that promote money driven solutions, that allow self-interest to be over community benefits.
In order to arrive to an awaken society, individuals must start concerning more for their own education, in spite of old teachings or learnings received already by a broken system. Information is readily available for almost anyone to start looking for solutions instead of looking for excuses, blame or more problems. The data is there, in every serious science based journal there are plenty of numbers, evidence and support for the pillars discussed above and to have more proof of that and to expand a little bit more this topic to forming people have to create their own business. The following paragraph accounts for this proof:
The crucial predictor of better employability without over-education was entrepreneurial skills acquired during university studies. As mentioned in the section on literature review, they have three pillars that are well defined in the literature on entrepreneurial alertness. Our data permitted us to approximate these three pillars with the following three variables (2):
a) Alertness to new opportunities (scanning and search);
b) Ability to come up with new ideas and solutions (association and connection); c) Willingness to question one’s own and others’ ideas (evaluation and judgement).
If we match and analyze more critically the abilities exposed above we can clearly see that they’re very similar to the ones exposed on the critical thinking paradigm. When you develop a sense of analysis and you have developed a critical thinking pattern it’s embedded that you will be able to be alert and will have a seeking behavior of searching more knowledge or opportunities.
If we also start developing students that can create their own companies and modus vivendi instead of just relying on outside options we would start broadening the field of resources that are not being used, we would in turn generate opportunities for others instead of just using the “available positions” in an industry sector that is limited for employees and we would develop more businesses that address real problems with a community based orientation.
The second variable, new ideas and solutions, that requires association and connection would also take advantage of the self reflection component discussed before, as people with that inner capacity to question their own interests would look for a connecting and association of other ideas to produce a “new tendency” that would allow the creation of a service that will address particular needs not seen by other people that are just doing busy work. In addition to that this would create a sense of independency that would motivate this entrepreneurs to employ people with a similar mindset that have allowed themselves to be critical in their own way of thinking.
And finally the third variable, a will to question one’s and others’ ideas, in my own view this a blend of self-reflection and self-action components discussed above, because this comprises of evaluation and judgement of their own ideas as well as others proposals which in turn will trigger the seeking behavior for new options, for that “small spot” of need that would also be biased towards helping others and not on the selfish need of becoming rich or powerful.
Every time we allow ourselves to judge kindly our own point of view, or own way of thinking we arrive to a solution easier than looking for the problem outside. We become self-solvers instead of a burden of complains and blame for others, additionally we also are more humble to judge without bias the proposal or opinion of others as we have a sense of community and compassion towards others’ interests.
In summary, education systems have to be redesigned, have to be challenged, and have to be rebuilt to address the needs of a modern world that should be more concerned to benefit a community than to fill their own pockets and to stuffed their own egos filled with power and self-interests covered by a mask of institutions cause-oriented or religious-biased but that when you go a little deep into their system they’re made of the same self-interest to become a lucrative business without a real concern for their own employees (teachers) and of course more worried of satisfying a student (client) that is more concerned of obtaining a document (title) than the real need and joy for knowledge !!
Dunne, G. (2015). Beyond critical thinking to critical being: Criticality in higher education and life. International Journal of Educational Research, 71, 86–99.
Kucel, A., Róbert, P., Buil, M., & Masferrer, N. (2016). Entrepreneurial Skills and Education-Job Matching of Higher Education Graduates. European Journal of Education, 51(1), 73–89.