We live in the age of technology where information is largely available and knowledge – much more accessible. At the same time, human intelligence has become more important than ever. The ability to think critically, determine the quality and reliability of information and rationalize key decisions whether it refers to personal life or issues of public importance, are traits that will be more and more valued as the technological breakthrough accelerates.
The quality of education closely linked with innovation and creativity plays a key role for the well-being of countries across the globe, reflected in the competitiveness and quality of life at large.
According to UN’s Human Capital Index (HDI) Georgia ranks pretty well, falling in the segment of High Human Development. HDI measures average achievement in three basic dimensions of human development – a long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living. However, according to The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey 2015, despite some improvements, Georgia still performed below average in the areas of science, math and reading. Importantly, the PISA survey does not measure the performance Of 15-year olds against the school program, rather than their preparedness to full and essential participation in the knowledge society.
Obviously, there is still significant room for improvement for Georgia in this area. The quality education as well as the ability of Georgian students to fully unleash their potential, are the goals that need to bring together the government, teachers, parents and students themselves. To address these goals, recently, Letterato – the Critical Thinkers’ Academy has been established in Tbilisi with the key aim to assist students enlarge their knowledge, acquire critical, objectivity-based thinking and widen their horizon in the areas of reading and arts beyond the regular school hours. The Academy offers three modules so far: the books and reading, critical thinking and logical reasoning, and the history of arts.
Each module is designed for respective age categories, such as fifth-eight grade and ninth-twelve grade students and serves two sub-goals: to increase students’ knowledge and equip them with important skills needed for better performance in both, professional as well as personal lives in future.
According to Tamara Razmadze, the founder and the director of Letterato “The Academy also provides Georgian youth with the possibility to engage in the meaningful discussions with their peers, while equipping them with intellectual integrity, fair-mindedness, logical reasoning skills, and intellectual autonomy. These are the skills that are very much needed in today’s free society”.
Beyond formal curricula, Letterato will serve as a platform for fact-based debating around different issues of high importance and social life, as well as meetings with various speakers successful in arts, politics and economy. The curriculum is based on innovative approaches, like simulations, learning through role-playing, case-based learning and practical exercises.
“Obviously, children, especially teens are being less engaged in reading. This happens due to the fact of the dramatic boost of technologies and visual arts, in particular, filmmaking industry, over the last decades, and the availability of enormous information that instantly falls on us from different media channels, whether it is social, electronic or other kind of media. Everything is available, especially in visualized format and our youngsters have already adapted to this reality.
They have become very ergonomics-oriented what information to consume, in which portions and in what time span. The raise of TV series for instance, can also be explained by this fact. On the other hand, these ready-to-use material whether this is a perfectly made movie based on an award-winning novel, or TV series with deep meaning and very impressive visualization, still kills imagination and the ability to think independently.
Alternatively, books and reading provide unique possibility to take a unique imaginative path together with a protagonist along a story, which cannot be reiterated by any other reader and make your own interpretation. That is why movies are not substitute for books and vice versa. Definitely, we observe incredible democratization of knowledge and accessibility of information, which is one of the greatest achievements of human civilization, but we also live in the era of superficial knowledge and ready-to-use answers to all questions we may have.
This leads to intellectual laziness, which is an opposite of critical thinking. That is why low-quality or fake information is so vastly circulated and accepted in today’s world. People often do not question the authenticity whatever is presented to them.
The idea of Letterato was born observing the need to help our young generation to reimagine the world they live in and start questioning in a positive, even philosophical sense. We are striving to equip them with logical reasoning and critical thinking skills, the ability to analyze a topic from different angles, help them use their creativity, and then they conclude based on facts, not on so called “confirmation bias”. The teaching curricula are designed in a way that respond to the requirements of modern reality that makes the learning process really dynamic and exciting for youngsters” – Tamara Razmadze says.
Although the Thinker’s Academy offers learning through playing, each course is quite intense. The history of arts classes, for instance, will guide it’s students through the whole history of arts, starting from cave painting, ending with visualized arts of today’s world. It will also introduce the students different cultures and help them to identify cross-cultural commonalities, as well as diversity and uniqueness of each civilization and culture. The books and reading classes include approximately twenty selected works to read throughout the academic year per class. And the critical thinking and logical reasoning classes offer intensive program with over twenty topics given for discussion and analysis, as well as logical reasoning exercises and debates after each topic. Good news is that the majority of tasks will be performed during the classes and students will not have to do their homework.
According to Tamara Razmadze, Letterato spurs to form a strong community around the Academy, through engaging its students, partners and peers in helping to cope, at least on a smaller scale, with one of biggest challenges of the country: young generation’s education and necessary skills to analyze, reason, communicate and collaboratively solve problems. As the Academy develops, more disciplines will be offered to its students.