Forum: Train the young to think out of the box

A teacher with his students from Admiralty Secondary School.
A teacher with his students from Admiralty Secondary School.PHOTO: ST FILE

Forum contributor Wong Horng Ginn pretty much hit the nail on the head with his astute observations on creativity (Creativity cannot be engineered or incentivised, Jan 4).

While creativity, unfortunately, cannot be taught per se, its benefits could be distilled by nurturing constructive "outside the box" thinking that differs from prevalent assumptions to check counterproductive groupthink and popular opinion.

One application in schools could be where students are split into groups for project work, with one student in each group appointed to be the contrarian who critiques and challenges the assumptions about the project made by the rest of the group.

His role is to find the best possible arguments for why the decision of the rest of the group is flawed and the rest of the group must hear him out no matter how implausible his views may seem.

There could always be a chance that the contrarian is right.

Besides developing an "outside the box" way of thinking, the entire exercise could also expose flaws in prevalent assumptions and groupthink, and lead to better ways of doing things.

With the education system being recalibrated through initiatives such as subject-based banding to help students to break out of fixed mindsets (New year, new class formats at some schools, Jan 3), this could be an opportune time to nurture constructive contrarian thinking in our young that produce reasoned, factual and well thought-out discussions that lead to better ways of doing things.

Woon Wee Min

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 08, 2020, with the headline 'Train the young to think out of the box'. Print Edition | Subscribe