Critically Rethinking Education

As posted online on Capital News paper,March 2012

Despite the impact education has on the values of the young and the role it plays in economic growth, Ethiopia has faced historical and cultural complications that have limited its progress.
According to UNESCO’s reviews, most people in Ethiopia feel that work is more important than education, so at a very early age labor replaces learning. Social awareness about how vital education is, is improving but still not at the required pace.
Like in many parts of the world, quality education is also an issue.
“If you go around the world you will see that education is in the same place, everybody has the same concerns, Dr. David Hyerle, told Capital.
Dr. Hyerle developed the thinking map model in 1980s, a system that nurtures and advances reading comprehension, writing skills and problem solving.
Most students do not know how to turn the information they get into knowledge because most classroom education is content based, and students simply memorize and regurgitate information to pass an exam; which does not help them become creative or think critically.  He says that is where thinking maps come in. Thinking maps are visual representations or diagrams of eight cognitive processes that include cause-and-effect, categorization, sequencing, comparing and contrasting and seeing analogies.
Now Dr. David Hyerle’s ideas are being applied at a new school which will attempt to instill creativity and critical thinking skills in students and parents as well.
“Thinking school is offering a journey forward from the place education has been for so many decades,” David Hyerle told Capital.
Thinking School International is a network sharing innovative ideas among educators, to help pupils across the globe, he said, and it is now coming to Ethiopia. Thinking School International collaborated with Eminence Social Entrepreneurs in 2009. This year they will be working with over 300 government schools and private schools as well. Thinking Schools Ethiopia that provides training to parents, teachers and students will also work with NGOs that work in education such as Save The Children and others.
“You can’t just target a group of people in a school; if that’s the case then you will not have a sustainable result. That’s why we plan to involve everyone in the school at the trainings we give,” said Bereket Aweke, Thinking School’s Program Coordinator.
At the school the teacher is not above the students simply giving out information to be absorbed and the parents are not just idly hoping that the school will develop their child into the next genius. Instead there are no spectators and everyone is a learner. This means that the school is actually a transformative interdependent community.
Everyone becomes a learner, teacher, and leader through this process of focusing on the co-development of thinking, young and old. The process is learner/student centered throughout each school, between schools, throughout each Wereda and all over Ethiopia. This includes Pre-KG, elementary, secondary and university teachers’ trainings.
Thinking schools offers six starting points of thinking methodologies and they are reflective questioning, thinking skills, visual mapping, collaborative networking, developing disposition and structuring environment.The methodologies have been pilot tested on some school in and out of Addis Ababa and they have shown good results. “Our aim is to reach all schools in the country. We are working really closely with the Ministry of Education and there are talks about making thinking school part of the Ethiopian educational curriculum,” said Bereket.
Thinking Schools International is working with and is active in schools around the globe. Countries like Malaysia, Norway, South Africa and the UK are some of the countries Thinking Schools International is working with. The Thinking Schools Ethiopia government schools proposal for schools in Addis Ababa builds upon the initial eighteen-month student-centered pilot project from 2009-2011 in Ethiopia, a quality education approach with extensive research supporting Thinking Schools methods and implementation.

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