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Critical Thinking and Primary Education in Nigeria











Author: Dr. Leo Igwe

Numbering: Issue 1.B, Idea: African Freethinking

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: African Freethinker

Web Domain:

Individual Publication Date: February 8, 2019

Issue Publication Date: TBD

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 1,344

Keywords: Africa, children, critical thinking, education, Leo Igwe, Nigeria.

Critical Thinking and Primary Education in Nigeria[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

Thinking skills are pertinent to learning and intellectual formation of individuals because these abilities nourish the mind and sharpen the intellect. Thus, it is of importance that children from as early as the primary school age be exposed to this kind of thinking. It is at a younger stage that children are more inquisitive and curious. So it serves as an appropriate age to introduce critical reasoning to them. Unfortunately, courses on critical thinking are offered at tertiary levels, and at stages in life that children have become adults, and have made up their minds regarding so many issues. Critical thinking is taught at a point when individuals have largely become accustomed to culturally defined norms. The definition of critical thinking is often couched in some obscure verbiage that primary school pupils cannot relate to. Like a complex exercise that is not meant for children but for adults only, critical reasoning has been made inaccessible to children in primary schools. And this trend has to change. The trend must change because if we are to realize a critical thinking society, we must begin very early to inculcate critical thinking skills.

Subjects on critical thinking are taught when it’s apparently difficult for many to cultivate these cognitive abilities. Individuals should, at very impressionable stages, be made to show appreciation and not disdain for critical reasoning skills. Thus, critical reasoning modules should be introduced to children at the primary level of education or even earlier.  In fact critical thinking based instruction should be the first mode of instruction that pupils are exposed to. This is because critical thinking enhances the mental abilities of persons equipping them with the necessary competences that they need to examine ideas, solve problems and navigate a complex and complicated world.

Critical reasoning will ensure the minds of children against manipulation and exploitation by charlatans, con artists and peddlers of radical ideologies.

Incidentally, the school curricula in Nigeria are programmed to get students to proffer answers not pose questions, to memorize, not think. Education is mainly a form of indoctrination. The school system has no ample space for critical inquiry and interrogation of received knowledge. At the primary level, there is no subject or course that is exclusively devoted to fostering critical reasoning. Excellence in studentship is predicated on providing solutions not generating problems or finding faults. This trend in the educational system encourages rote learning and memorization of ready-made answers, not the generation of questions and problems. This culture of learning predisposes students to blind faith, gullibility and incuriosity. It leads to the graduation of students who are unable to analyse and interrogate issues and events; students who are contented with received knowledge and wisdom

At the moment, the primary educational system in Nigeria only encourages the learning and acquisition of quantitative and verbal reasoning skills. At primary schools across the country, pupils are taught verbal and quantitative aptitudes from basic one to six. Quantitative reasoning encourages thinking based on numbers and figures, or on measurable indices. Whilst verbal reasoning fosters the ability of pupils to understand and evaluate problems using words or written expressions.

For instance, in quantitative reasoning, pupils are taught addition, division and subtraction. The exercises are tailored to get pupils to generate answers. And in verbal aptitude, pupils are taught the formation, spellings and meanings of words. Pupils are asked to supply these meanings as part of the tests and examinations. However, cognitive abilities require much more than supplying answers to mathematical or verbal reasoning exercises. Too often human beings are presented with situations, mathematical and written expressions, that provoke their curiosity and clearly insatiate the mind.  For instance, in quantitative reasoning some pupils wonder why two times two equals four; and two plus two is also four. In verbal reasoning, some pupils ask why are the singular and plural of sheep the same.

So in response to quantitative and qualitative reasoning texts, children have questions; children raise questions, spot mistakes, identify errors and inadequacies. This form of reasoning is necessary for the improvement and betterment of the society because it triggers a thinking process that is geared towards social change, innovation and transformation. Critical reasoning prepares students to point out shortcomings and confront the challenges of everyday life. It equips pupils with the capacity to highlight gaps, assess situations and tackle problems.

Thus it is important to introduce children to critical reasoning and make this intellectual habit part of their every day learning process. This is especially the case because knowledge comes in bits and pieces, and in ways that arouse curiosity in the minds of students. So there should be a subject that permits students to vent their curiosity and express their inquisitiveness. Very early in their education, children should be taught subjects where they are rewarded for posing questions and interrogating whatever they see, hear, read or touch. Quantitative and qualitative reasoning texts are not error-proof. They are laden with questions, or with statements that stimulate the mind and excite one’s intelligence. Pupils should be made to know that it is a mark of learning to express, and not suppress questions in all areas of human endeavour. Pupils should realize that it is a sterling quality, a demonstration of intelligence, to ask questions or better to question everything.

In conclusion, critical reasoning should be included in the educational scheme of Nigerian primary schools in order to improve the quality of learning in the country. Critical thinking is linked to other intellectual habits and other aspects of life. It builds on other thinking skills and competences. Thus, critical reasoning compliments quantitative, qualitative and other reasoning abilities that pupils should cultivate in schools. To realize a critical thinking society, Nigeria should invest in the teaching of critical thinking and the cultivation of the habit to question ideas. Nigeria needs to start nurturing critical thinking minds early enough, at the primary school level.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Founder, Humanist Association of Nigeria; Founder & CEO, Advocacy for Alleged Witches; Convener, Decade of Activism against Witch Persecution in Africa: 2020-2030.

[2] Individual Publication Date: February 8, 2020:

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Igwe L. Critical Thinking and Primary Education in Nigeria [Online]February 2020; 1(B). Available from:

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Igwe, L. (2020, February 8). Critical Thinking and Primary Education in NigeriaRetrieved from

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): IGWE, L., Critical Thinking and Primary Education in Nigeria. 1.B, February. 2020. <>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Igwe, Leo. 2019. “Critical Thinking and Primary Education in Nigeria.” African Freethinker. 1.B.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Igwe, Leo “Critical Thinking and Primary Education in Nigeria. 1.B (February 2020).

Harvard: Igwe, L. 2020, ‘Critical Thinking and Primary Education in NigeriaAfrican Freethinker, vol. 1.B. Available from: <>.

Harvard, Australian: Igwe, L. 2020, ‘Critical Thinking and Primary Education in NigeriaAfrican Freethinker, vol. 1.B.,

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Leo Igwe. “Critical Thinking and Primary Education in Nigeria” African Freethinker 1.B (2020):February. 2020. Web. <>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Igwe L. Critical Thinking and Primary Education in Nigeria [Internet]. (2020, February; 1(B). Available from:

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