Fostering a Culture of Inquisitiveness

In a progressive country like Singapore, most parents will hope to raise children who are inquisitive and independent in their learning.

We have been told on a daily basis that the world which our children grow up in will be drastically different from our times. 

But has our style of parenting changed as well? Are we progressive enough in the way we coach our children? 

With the Internet revolution, information on just about anything is accessible at a click. Not only is it not possible for one person to remember massive amount of information at his fingertips, the competitive advantage is also no longer on one's ability to collect and remember tons of facts.

The premium now, is on critical analysis, i.e. knowing what questions to ask, what information you need and where to look for such information. 

What is also very important is to have the courage and self-confidence to challenge the information given, to question its validity and make our own judgments. 

If a child can think creatively to derive at out-of-the-box solutions when presented with a problem that he has never seen or experienced before, he has a competitive edge. 

The same goes for a child who is able to form his own opinions on an issue and has the language ability to express his views and hold his side of the argument when facing critics. 

The child also gains the upper hand when he learns to live with ambiguities and is flexible in his approach to resolve problems he encounters. It is only when he has learnt to accept the fact that in many cases, there is more than one way to skin a cat, will he truly be able to think creatively, question the norm and seek out the alternative solutions. 

Unlike the genetic traits in our kids, which we may not have much control over, the higher-order thinking skills such as critical thinking and creative thinking skills can be taught and honed. 

While the child's temperament may play a part, the biggest determinants are still the availability of learning opportunities to train and equip the child in his acquisition of such skills and the way the child is coached in his learning environment. 

In Singapore, it is not uncommon to meet young children who may be brilliant at answering questions and are able to read independently. But usually it does not take long for one to figure out that these kids are very used to being taught and spoon-fed with information by their teachers and/or parents. 

Many are interested in seeking the correct answer instead of being comfortable with situations which could have multiple possibilities. 

A lot of preschoolers and even children in Primary schools have been so conditioned to being taught by schools and enrichment teachers and/or parents, that they just wait to be taught, instead of seeking out opportunities to learn. 

When students first joined our Bright Minds Lapbookers programme, it is always interesting to observe how most of them will draw a blank when presented with the specially designed activities which challenged their abilities to think independently and problem-solve.

Yet after merely a few weeks, when they have acquired more experience and exposure to such situations that take them out of their comfort zones, most kids will begin to put what they have learnt into use.

The brain is a pattern seeker. If a child is exposed to creative thinking at an early age and the brain is taught the creative thinker's mindset, the child will be able to continue with this pattern of thinking with great ease, as if it is his second nature. Similarly, a child raised in a culture of inquisitiveness will go through daily life constantly inquiring effortlessly.

Such is the kind of life skills we should be investing time and effort in. Of course, the process of fostering a culture of inquisitiveness takes time to reap rewards, but it is surely possible.

Shirley Tan
Founder, From Tiny Acorns