A thought laboratory is a structure that facilitates the cultivation and nourishing of thinking skills. Critical and creative competencies are among the most sought-after skills in the world. They have been proposed to be the drivers of the future global economy, Employers of labor value and cherish them. Incidentally, there is little or no emphasis on these mental habits in the school system in Nigeria. Those who graduate from our schools become critical and creative thinkers by default. And this situation has to change. Schools need to become centers and nurturers of critical and creative excellence. While the national policy on education outlines the cultivation of creative, critical, and reflective thinking as part of the goal of the education system, there are no programs and facilities to foster these skills. In primary and secondary schools, there are no subjects that strictly teach children to think critically or creatively. In primary schools, children are taught cultural and creative arts. The subject presents creativity as artwork and costumes. Creative ingenuity is much more than art works and cultural wear.
Critical and creative thinking skills are needed in all sectors of life. These competencies are a requirement for career excellence, and meaningful navigation of the world in an information driven age. So there must be a heavy emphasis on these skills at all levels of education. That is why it has become necessary to set up thought laboratories in schools. In addition to having subjects that are devoted to critical and creative thinking skills, there is a need to erect buildings strictly for the cultivation of these thinking skills. Schools need structures that help deepen one's knowledge of these mental habits.
Just as schools have science and computer laboratories where students receive extra lessons on these subjects, there should be thought laboratories where students and teachers spend extra time cultivating and exercising their thinking skills. As important life skills, there is a need to intensify the acquisition of these intellectual virtues. It is necessary to provide more opportunities and facilities to nurture the skills. This is the purpose that these thought laboratories will serve. Schools teach many subjects and have too little time to devote to key subjects. Many times the classrooms or lecture halls are inadequate to conduct some practicals or conduct further exercises. That is why as in the case of the science subjects, separate buildings should be erected and equipped, and extra hours allotted to enable students to practice and perfect these skills and knowledge. The same thing should apply to critical and creative thinking. And this is the need which thought laboratories fulfill.
These thought laboratories should be located in serene environments, where there is silence; and where students can focus and concentrate, think and reflect, ponder and wonder, introspect and explore without distractions. The building should have departments devoted to various mental skills. Every thinking skill follows a unique trajectory And there is a need to put in place mechanisms that allow its full expression and exertion. Thought laboratories should have equipment that enables the cultivation of these skills. For instance, there should be a critical thinking department. This section of the laboratory should have facilities that stimulate and enable students to exercise their questioning and interrogative habits. There should be amenities that nudge students to ask questions, identify faults and gaps, and generate problems. In this section, critical thought experiments are conducted. They explore various ways of applying, demonstrating, or exercising critical faculties.
The thought laboratory should have a creative thinking section as well. This section provides a space for students to apply their creative intelligence in all areas of human endeavor. Here students are inspired and motivated to unleash their creative ingenuity; they are nudged and prodded to invent and innovate, to generate solutions and answers. In the creative thinking department, everything is unfinished, and in need of finishing. Everything is imperfect, and in need of perfection, old but yearning for the new or a renewal. Thus this section of the laboratory is equipped with amenities that will enable full and free exercise and exertion of these impulses and sentiments.
At a time when the school system is in dire straits, and most graduands are unemployed or underemployed, thought laboratories have become an imperative for the educational system in Nigeria. Public and private school managers should explore ways of introducing this critical educational infrastructure to their schools.
By Leo Igwe