Teach students to ask 'why' and 'why not'

Editor at large Han Fook Kwang's call ("Fix the economy? Focus on education and culture"; Nov 1) is a timely one, as our nation needs to find new ways to grow the economy.

Innovation and creativity are key drivers to create new values for our economy.

In education, much has been invested to make the system less focused on producing exam-smart students. However, it is still a traditional classroom, where the student takes in what the teacher teaches and then applies the knowledge to answer questions.

While this approach is useful to convey knowledge, it will not develop a thinking student.

In addition, the recent focus on complex processing skills greatly disadvantages late bloomers, especially in primary school education.

Hence, I urge the Education Ministry to let students learn at a more natural pace.

Our education system should go beyond the "what" and "how" and emphasise the "why" and "why not" aspects more. This will help to deepen the ability of students to analyse past events critically, and develop in them the courage to try new things.

To anchor these thinking skills and develop them as an aptitude, the process should start earlier in the student's learning journey.

If done successfully, it is a giant step towards developing a thinking population, which is critical to developing more innovative products and services for our future economy.

Jeremy Chew Cheng Huat

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 15, 2015, with the headline 'Teach students to ask 'why' and 'why not''. Print Edition | Subscribe