Vedaaranya Heritage Arts and Healing Festival 2016

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Prof. Joseph Jordania

The University of Melbourne
Grattan Street, Parkwille, VIC 3052 Australia

Should We Teach Students How to Answer Questions or How to Ask Questions? Towards a New Educational Strategy

We all, as children, start our intellectual development asking myriads of questions, but as soon as we go to school we are taught to answer questions. The existing system of mainstream education at all levels is heavily based on developing student's ability to answer questions. Based on the results of the recent research in human evolutionary history, the author suggests to shift to a new educational strategy, based on developing student's ability to ASK questions (instead of ANSWERING questions only), as a potentially more creative educational model. Recent comparative research in human and animal mental abilities demonstrated that chimpanzees and bonobos can acquire elements of human language and communicate with humans, including answering complex questions, but even the most advanced apes fail to ask questions themselves. Interestingly, asking questions does not require the use of syntactic structures, as questions can be (and are) ! asked on one-word stage of children language development, with the use of question intonation. So asking questions seems to be a profoundly human cognitive ability, an ability that defines  human intelligence. The author suggests to put the development of the natural human ability of asking questions at the centre of the new educational strategy. This will require re-designing educational textbooks and creation of a number of new tests for primary, secondary and tertiary schools. The paper contains suggestions for such tests on different educational levels. This new educational strategy, if adopted (first as an experiment in several schools, ideally with different cultural traditions), has a potential to encourage more critical and creative approach of both students and teachers to the teaching process, and could bring the existing educational system to a qualitatively new level.

Keywords : educational strategy. Asking questions. Human evolution. Human and animal intelligence