Critical thinking too often undersold

Critical thinking and logical analysis are often undersold skills associated with extreme effort and avoided at all costs by students.

This begins within secondary school with the culture of reluctance around mathematics and a ridiculous tendency of students to agree with the one kid who throws that infamous question to the math teacher, ‘Sure, what are we going to use this stuff for in real life?’. What many students who agreed failed to realise was that it was not the content or the right answer that mattered, it was the thought process being developed by every problem tackled.

This form of learning is so often overshadowed by strict memorisation and regurgitation of learnt off material, particularly for the Leaving Certificate programme. But what relevance does critical thinking really hold in life after secondary school?

As an economics student, critical thinking is of enormous importance. Business, finance, science and engineering all directly involve mathematical content. The more theoretical and reading based courses, such as Law, require students to solve problems and derive solutions independently.

Thinking logically outside of the academic spectrum is essential. The life of a student requires them to carefully balance their budgets, be efficient time managers, and spend an unholy level of time calculating the required work effort in order to obtain a pass in a given module.

Employers are increasingly ranking research and analytical skills as ever more important. A survey conducted by Gradireland found that over 26 per cent of recruiters identified ‘independent working’ and ‘analytical thinking’ as skills that Irish graduates lack. It is clear that the benefits of developing these skills extend beyond having the ability to do Higher-level Math’s, but the question remains as to how the issue can be addressed.

In essence these skills are truly awoken by solving simple math problems. The Department of Education now offers 25 extra points for those who pass Higher Level Math’s in the Leaving Certificate, which is a positive and encouraging first step. However, reviewing the Leaving Certificate Results Table of 2013 reveals that almost one in 10 students who sat Ordinary Level Math’s failed, which is a worrying statistic that sees many students clearly leaving school without a basic problem solving ability.

DCU often prides itself on leading in the field of innovation and along with other Irish universities it requires students to think progressively for future research advancements to ensure Ireland is providing the highest calibre of graduates that employers desire. Our generation needs to become aware of the value of these advantageous skills and environments encouraging independent thinking need to be established from an early age.

Shane Houlihan is a 2nd year Economics, Politics and Law student in DCU.

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