Critical thinking is an essential 21st Century skill, but what is it and why is it important?

In his book, An Introduction to Critical Thinking and Creativity: Think More, Think Better, Dr, Lau writes that critical thinkers can do the following:

  • Understand the logical connections between ideas.
  • Identify, construct, and evaluate arguments.
  • Detect inconsistencies and common mistakes in reasoning.
  • Solve problems systematically.
  • Identify the relevance and importance of ideas.
  • Reflect on the justification of one’s own beliefs and values.
What is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is therefore not just knowing lots of information or having a good memory.  A critical thinker can use the information that he or she knows to solve problems.  This requires us to determine the relative importance of the information we have.  Then we must assess the strength of that information.  Finally, we must decide what new information we need to help with decision making and to solve the problem faced.

Critical thinking promotes and is an essential ingredient of creativity.  Creativity helps us come up with new ideas. Therefore critical thinking is used to evaluate, select and improve on these ideas to achieve a relevant and appropriate solution.

Critical Thinking and the Future of Jobs

In 2016 the World Economic Forum released a report: “The Future of Jobs”.  This report discussed the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is seeing developments in artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, 3D printing, genetics and biotechnology, the report noted the global disruption this will cause in the skills needed in work.


The data compiled by the World Economic Forum highlight the top 3 most relevant skills needed in the 21st Century.  These relate to critical thinking, creativity, and their practical application through problem-solving.

The great news is that these are skills and something that we can learn and use throughout our lives regardless of the career we choose. Furthermore, critical thinking and problem-solving are transferrable skills. This means that they can be applied to a variety of different situations.  The result is that these skills allow us to develop an understanding guided by scientific inquiry and evidence-based thinking.  So rather than just noticing that something has happened, we get a deeper understanding of why something has happened, through an analysis of the factors that created that outcome.

Science learning in the context of a good STEM education not only helps prepare the next generation for better jobs it also teaches them skills that can be used throughout life to help them get through tough times to open their mind to accept information based on factual evidence and embrace new opportunities.


Lau, J.Y.F (2011) An Introduction to Critical Thinking and Creativity: Think More, Think Better, Wiley, New Jersey

%d bloggers like this: