Everyone in an academic setting asks you to be critical. What in fact is critical writing?
Critical writing, despite the common understanding, does not ask one to list out different problems with an issue, a school of thought or a paper. However, it requires a more balanced, informed and well rounded approach to be adopted towards the understanding of an issue or a school of thought. A classic way to go about it would be to consider the two very important words in critical and analytical thought: it depends. When developing and arguing for a position you are ready to take, evaluating what your position depends on, as well as giving consideration to what opposing positions may depend on allows you to present an argument that seems to have been taken up after consideration of alternatives. It allows you to have opened your mind up to other positions, considered and evaluated them, and then arrived at the one you choose to support.
Was the beginning of philosophy the beginning of science?
This answer is as complex as one would like. Separating fields like philosophy and science within human history if a tough job, as modern science is nothing like the thought and practices of what drove human history to the renaissance, enlightenment or the industrial revolution. One could say that science existed before philosophy, for technological innovations like the wheel could be considered science. While a legitimate argument could also be presented for science as we know it to have started after the enlightenment, or following the industrial revolution; where rationality and explanation were primary and religious beliefs were completely separated from the field. I would however, place science as a field that has evolved with human thought and experience and was put in place before the Greeks (who brought philosophy). The Babylonians placed some foundations of thought and inquiry, which was later to drive all pursuits of rationality that humans have strived for and has resulted in modern day science.
Do you think large scale assessment results, used in comparative education should be driving education policy in countries? Why?
The field of international and comparative education has recently gained increasing popularity, especially amongst those participating in tests like PISA and TIMMS. Results of these tests usually make headlines and a resulting table is thought to reflect on the state of education in a particular. However, little attention is paid to the context, the test themselves, and how they may mean extremely different things in countries across the globe. Issues like culture, language, question translation, and other contextual factors receive scant attention. Studies show that these issues can often play detrimental roles in the over all assessment scores of a country. While I certainly think large scale assessments are a useful way to obtain general information, I also think that education is more complex and contextual field than one that can be captured and reflected in them.