Critical thinking in civic, moral, and national education: An evaluation of the understandings of critical thinking in schools

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


That students and school leavers should possess the ability to think critically is almost a consensus among educators, parents, and employers in Hong Kong. The importance of cultivating critical thinking skills in schools was given a prominent place in major government documents such as the Liberal Studies Curriculum and Assessment Guide (2007), The Revised Moral and Civic Education Curriculum Framework (2008), and the Moral and National Education Curriculum Guide (2012). Most of the 57 teachers from 14 schools who were awarded the Chief Executive’s Award for Teaching Excellence (Moral and Civic Education domain) in 2011 were also in agreement with the importance of critical thinking. In this research, we conducted in-depth interviews with this batch of award-winning teachers with the purpose of exploring their impressions, understandings, and judgments of critical thinking. On the one hand, we are delighted to see that most of the teachers interviewed can capture and appreciate the reasoning skills, moral dispositions, and habits of engaging the world that are constitutive of critical thinking. But on the other, we also notice that they have set rather strict pre-conditions for students to meet before they are encouraged to practice critical thinking skills in public matters. For instance, some teachers contended that it is a good thing for students to be critical as long as they have picked up the 'correct' standards of right and wrong; others found it important that students should be constructive and be able to make suggestions instead of simply questioning and criticizing; some others stressed the importance of having comprehensive background knowledge of the issue before adopting a critical stand. In very general terms these are all reasonable pre-conditions or expectations. However, in light of the cases and examples of Hong Kong quoted by our interviewees, we have a reason to believe that what lied behind these very general expectations may well be the particular moral values or political standpoints of the teachers. How teachers can reconcile their commitment to the cultivation of critical thinking and their hidden values is something we need to address.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013



Mok, F., & Yuen, T. (2013, July). Critical thinking in civic, moral, and national education: An evaluation of the understandings of critical thinking in schools. Paper presented at the IACSEE 10th International Conference 2013, The University of Auckland, New Zealand.