While technical skills have long been recognised as the key to a successful career, soft skills such as critical thinking are increasingly becoming essential to thrive in the modern workplace.
In emerging markets such as Thailand and Vietnam, where education is evolving to align with the knowledge economy, it is more important than ever for learners to understand and pursue these soft skills, which while challenging to learn will serve them for life both professionally and personally.
Critical thinking, in particular, transcends technical skills and job types, says Anisa Zulfiqar, Business Development Manager at Pearson Asia. Regardless of the technical requirements of a job or occupation, nearly all require some form of problem solving, creativity, decision making, organisation skills and strategic thinking. And critical thinking helps with all of those.
But while this soft skill is vitally important to success for both students and professionals, the very concept can be difficult to grasp. So how do you explain it?
“Critical thinking is the ability to look at a situation logically and understand it from multiple perspectives while separating facts from opinions. It involves the ability to question assumptions so that you can make a logical decision based on all the available information and an evaluation of the facts,” Anisa says. “Put simply, critical thinking is the ability to make good decisions.”
Enhancing success in the classroom, workplace and beyond
This ability is crucial to nearly every occupation, especially those in the knowledge economy which puts a premium on human capital, and tech-intensive manufacturing, or Industry 4.0, as it has come to be known. In a survey of 1,200 different professions listed on the U.S. Department of Labor’s O*Net website, 900 called for critical thinking as a required skill.
Anisa gives the example of a nurse, who must use critical thinking to care for a patient whose condition may be changing rapidly. “You need to accurately assess the information that’s at hand, think in a logical manner, question any assumptions and make the right decision for the patient’s wellbeing.”
The evidence isn’t just anecdotal. Pearson has conducted a number of studies that show good critical-thinking skills are highly correlated to performance in a variety of jobs, as well as academic success, Anisa says.