Reframing the Debate on Asian Students and Critical Thinking: Implications for Western Universities


  • David Rear Chuo University, Tokyo



This paper examines the contention that, as a result of their cultural and educational backgrounds, students from east Asia lack the critical thinking skills required when they study abroad at Western universities. It begins by highlighting the broad nature of the term ‘critical thinking’, which includes a wide range of both cognitive skills and psychological dispositions. From a comprehensive review of the literature, it finds that many, though not all, of these skills and dispositions can be found in equal or greater measure in Asian culture and education, particularly when the factor of language proficiency is taken into account. It advocates, therefore, a reframing of the debate on the issue, moving away from general, and potentially misleading, statements about criticality towards a more specific analysis of what assistance international students require when they enter Western universities.

Author Biography

David Rear, Chuo University, Tokyo

David Rear, PhD. Faculty of Science and Engineering, Chuo University, Tokyo. David Rear is an associate professor at the Faculty of Science and Technology at Chuo University, Tokyo. He teaches courses on critical thinking, intercultural awareness and global studies and conducts research in critical thinking and critical discourse analysis. His most recent publication is a chapter on the teaching of critical thinking in Essential Competencies for English Medium University Teaching edited by Ruth Breeze and Carmen Guinda, published by Springer. He has also recently been published in Critical Policy Studies, Asia Pacific Journal of Education, Contemporary Japan and Asian Business & Management. In addition, he has published several critical reading textbooks for university students in Japan.