New Critical Thinking Exam Starts in Schools
Russell, Ben, The Independent (London, England)
SIXTH-FORMERS are to be taught the skills of the mind, with the launch of Britain's first examination in critical thinking. Students will enrol for the one-year courses in September to prepare for the first AS-level exams in May.
Students working towards the exam, worth half an A-level, will learn how to pick apart arguments, dissect the reliability of sources and see through the black arts of the spin-doctors.
The course, devised by the Oxford and Cambridge exam board, focuses on arguments about the environment, politics and current affairs, rather than the classical philosophy of Plato and Aristotle.
But students will deal with ideas that have vexed great minds for centuries. They will be taught to examine the philosophical premises behind arguments on topics such as poverty and decide whether deductions are logical and cases have been made beyond reasonable doubt.
Multiple-choice and essay questions will ask sixth-formers to spot holes in arguments and their underlying assumptions.Students will be asked, for example, to analyse witness statements after a car crash or examine the costs and benefits of recycling.
The exam is part of a reform of A-levels designed to increase the breadth of subjects. Ministers hope students will take up to five half-size AS-levels before topping up three subjects to the full A- level.
The idea of teaching children how to think has become popular after studies found that students who were taught the skills of abstract reasoning performed better in academic subjects.
David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, moved this year to expand the teaching of abstract thinking skills in secondary schools. …