What is more important for Kazakhstani students nowadays: mastering the three languages or developing critical thinking? The more I hear popularizing the former, the more confident I become in the latter. In the era of information availability the skill to differentiate facts from opinions, not accepting things without challenging them and “arriv[ing] at the truth” after careful examining the information (Wood, 2002) is more valuable than learning several languages and “arrive at” being multilingual.
From 1956, when critical thinking started attracting educators’ attention, many scholarly works on what CT is and the role of developing CT in education have emerged. Bloom (1956); Ennis (1987); Kennedy, 1991; Kuhn (1999); Mayer, R. E. (1983); Wood, R. (2002); Paul, 1993; Nickerson, 1987 are only a short list of those who espouse CT as the school policies’ main focus (as cited in Mansoor & Samaneh, 2014). Despite, the model of education as global marketing workforce supplier in some countries underestimates the role of CT in mother tongue. Moreover, instead of developing students’ higher order thinking in L1, it “perpetuates” the power of an international language “without associating it with learning skills”, so that a foreign language becomes a “stratifier” (Tupas, 2014, p. 119). Tollefson warns, “Those who can afford it go to schools with a high quality of English language teaching and learning; those who cannot afford it also go to English-medium schools (because of the belief that English is the way out of poverty) but end up being taught English deemed undesirable by society” (as cited in Tupas,2014, p. 119). The truth is that the quality of teaching languages is not equally available for everyone, and the necessity for various languages differs from area to area. The individual’s actual need for a language can be satisfied by asking questions oneself and others and gauging possibilities and aspirations, in other words, by being a critical thinker. That is why CT in education should be priority.
Regarding Kazakhstan, if we exemplify our blog experience (both Leadership in Ed. and Multilingual Ed.) as a minute model of Kazakhsatani education, the preliminary calculation of current topics shows that concerns around languages appear in the blog fifth as much as on critical thinking. Counting that a critical thinker can find ways to learn languages (and not only) independently, isn’t critical thinking more significant than a symbolic importance several languages?
Tupas, R, (2014). Inequalities of multilingualism: Challenges to mother tongue-based multilingual education. Language and Education, 29 (2), 112-124.