New tech downgrades reading, harms critical thinking, says Fiji academic

USP's Dr Jito Vanualailai ... "People are more interested in social media, the internet - but text there is not reflective reading. Image: TTactics

By Losalini Bolatagici in Suva

Critical thinking — the ability to reason effectively — is declining and it’s worrying.

Dr Jito Vanualailai, director of the research office at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji, has attributed this to the excessive use of new technology and that reading is regarded as no longer important.

Reading, he said, developed imagination, critical thinking as well as vocabulary.

“People are more interested in social media, the internet – but text there is not reflective reading. They use words that cannot be read by our generation through visual media. As a result of which our critical thinking skills have declined,” Dr Vanualailai said.

“Reading for pleasure, which has declined among young people in recent decades, enhances thinking and it engages imagination in a way visual media such as internet, social media and video games do not.”

He said schools didn’t need the internet and discouraged the use of calculators until children reached tertiary level.

He also encouraged teachers to read to their students and parents to their children.

Global society students
Dr Vanualailai was making a presentation at the 117th Fiji Principals Association’s conference in Lami.

The conference theme was Preparing 21st Century Students for a Global Society.

Fiji National University’s dean of the College of Humanities and Education, Dr Eci Nabalarua, shared in her presentation that teachers had indicated to her that most of their students, especially in island schools, do not know how to read or write in English.

She said reading disability was worrying.

This was backed up by a principal of an urban Viti Levu school who said they had to have extra reading classes for Year 9 students simply because they did not know how to read.

The principal believed the compulsory education in the education sector was also a contributing factor.

He said students were allowed to pass on after secondary school and they remained non-readers all their lives.

He said if teachers were failing to teach them to read, they were failing them for life.

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