Audience: College / University students

Duration: 2x a week, 42 weeks*

Format: Presentations, Videos, Assigned readings, Quizzes

Class size: 5-6 students in a class, max of 3 such groups in a year.

I taught Critical Thinking for 5 years at the “Ashram school” in Pondicherry, a.k.a SAICE – the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education.

A fond memory – with a few of my students (Oct 2022)

The original motivation for me wanting to create a course around this subject was a memory of my own sense of inadequacy & lack of good questioning skills that I first experienced when I started working on ‘Wall Street’ in 2004. Over the subsequent years in New York, I realized that my school and college environments in India had consistently conditioned me to accept and not challenge ideas. The social construct in a conventional classroom is that one person knows, and any question that happens to implicitly put that one person on the spot may have consequences. And so we tend to become active listeners, at best.

When I returned to India in 2017, I quickly began putting together a year-long course which aimed to free up students to become irreverent questioners. During my research I also came across the idea that Critical Thinking is actually hard to teach (see this, and this). Anyhow, a leap had to be taken, so I started with a certain approach, and kept modifying it for every new group of students.

The urgency of the subject

Here are a few reasons why I feel this subject is perhaps worthy of being made a core of school and university curricula worldwide.

1. Questioning well is becoming a 21st century survival skill. J S Brown, who was previously the chief scientist at Xerox corp said it beautifully : “What matters now is your ability to triangulate, to look at something from multiple sources, and construct warrants for what you choose to believe”

2. We as a society have seemingly become less critical in an age of information overload. Think about this graph. Do you agree with it?

3. Institutions (schools & universities) tend to be dampeners on free-spirits. Think Nicholson’s role in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and then take a look at the lovely sketch below it.

“Pre-school children, on average, ask their parents 100 questions a day. By Middle school, they’ve pretty much stopped asking”[1]“The Creativity Crisis”, Bronson & Merryman, July 2010. Link: The opposite should be happening. But schools tend to discourage questioning. British psychologists found that children asked as many as 26 questions an hour at home- but when those same children were recorded at school, the number dropped to 2 per hour[2]Engel, S (2015) Can we talk? Educational Leadership, 73(1) 54-59. We in education need to constantly protect against the bureacratization of our schools and universities and foster an environment where children speak and question freely.

4. An emphasis on Critical Thinking and development of strong questioning skills changes the goal post fundamentally. “What’s my child’s aptitude for questioning?” is a lot more relevant than “What’s my child’s aptitude?” or “How good is my child at test-taking? Students and adults alike ought to perhaps be asking questions like “How strong is the evidence?” / “What am I not being told? What is the opposing view?” etc..

Course Texts

Here are some of the books I consulted while preparing for this course. Students also studied and discussed articles by Nassim Taleb, Paul Graham, Warren Berger and several other authors.

Student Feedback

At the end of each year, I solicited a ton of feedback from the students via Typeform / Google forms and in person. A large chunk of the feedback was taken anonymously to build on & improve the material, my traits as a teacher, and process. One question I asked them was to share their overall impression of the course :

Please share your impression of the Critical Thinking course for prospective students in the years ahead – original expectations vs reality, learnings / reflections / takeaways. Write as if your opinion and view was, in fact being solicited. Try to keep the following two questions in mind as well – “Why should anyone take this course?” or “Who should not take this course?”. Thanks!

I’m sharing this below with a sense of joy & accomplishment as:

  1. this feedback in a sense validates the belief or faith I had in myself when I was 17 that I would one day be back in a classroom setting, and
  2. that I genuinely believed I’d do well with students.

Here’s my ‘proof of work’.

If I look back to all the classes I attended at SAICE, this one clearly stands out as the most interesting, meaningful and worthwhile. The material covered was exhaustive in its capacity to make one reflect about oneself and the world, to inform and to serve as a tool to further drill into a particular subject and solidify one’s general understanding of a phenomenon/notion/concept..This course will widen your horizons in the true sense of the phrase, open and unearth interests / propensities /penchants and equip you to harness them in a meaningful direction.

Former K3 student , Graduation year : 2019

Thanks Uday for all the hard work you put into this class throughout the year. From presentations to choosing amazing handouts and a lot more, it is a class I’d recommend to all my juniors 🙂 I definitely benefited from this course. It was well-balanced in every way possible, interactive, had a lot of variety and kept us engaged throughout the year.

Former K2 student, Graduation year : 2020

Taking up this course has been one of the best decisions I have taken in Knowledge. I can see a drastic difference in my thinking between before and after the course. My thoughts are arranged in a more organised manner and I take better decisions than before. I started looking at things from various points of view and started to understand them better. Moreover, I enjoyed studying this course and I benefited a lot from it. Thank you Uday! ..

Who should not take this course?I don’t see anyone who should not take this course. No matter what stream is one following, arts, science or commerce, I strongly recommend all to take up this course because it is not based on any of these three streams.

Former K2 student , Graduation year : 2023

The course was far more impactful than I expected it to be. We often tend to overestimate our capability of thinking critically and rationally which often ends up in an “Oops moment” during conversations, debates and other human interactions inevitably. This course is well structured in all ways to help you avoid getting into such situations. From learning to identify biases and logical fallacies to studying great mental models and assessing one’s own thinking, Uday’s got you covered in all directions. The material covered in class and the handouts form a perfect combination to get an in-depth understanding of all topics. Ps. Uday’s the best teacher one can have. Thanks for everything Uday 🙂

Former K1 student, Graduation year : 2024

To begin with, I joined this class because I heard how interesting and helpful this class is from the students prior to me. Since then, I always looked forward to do this course. In my K2, I was unable to join as the course was taken up by its max number of students. That just shows how ‘hot’ this subject is and how quickly it’s all packed. Throughout my K2, I kept hearing more and more from my classmates how awesome and fruitful this class is. That just kept my enthusiasm towards this class and I knew that no matter what happens I have to take this course in my final year of K. Unlike other classes, this class was very interactive and I believe that is key to keep the interest coming from the students as well from the teachers. Every single student should take up this course at some point of their K life. Thank you, Uday 😊.

Former K3 student , Graduation year : 2022

Everyone should take your class ! I feel it’s extremely important given the subject and its relevance. Through-out the year, the course has lived up to my expectations. I loved the course ! I have influenced a lot my friends to join as well. The curriculum was very well planned, no doubt about it. Loved the experience !! Plz make it a 2 year course ! Plz !

Former K2 student, Graduation year : 2022

If this was a 2 year course I can’t even imagine all the interesting things and ideas one will get to learn and read about. Thanks Uday. I felt that this course is something everyone should do because it addresses such important concepts and ideas that are needed to be a better person who can think for themselves and think smart. It helps develop good habits of asking questions and being very analytical and critical of the world around us. This is something that has helped me a lot and going forward I think it will make a better person.

Former K1 student , Graduation year : 2023

The reality definitely exceeded my expectations..This course taught me to not take things for their face value and to question our own biases. With the internet bombarding us with information it’s hard to discern the truth and form opinions about them, but the material covered during class helped me realize how taking that extra step to dig deeper, and question everything.

Former K3 student, Graduation year : 2021

This course should be taken by every student in the third year, and I say this because the first two years definitely prepare you for this class. Regardless of one’s priorities, it teaches you more about yourself and the way you think. It’s intense and sometimes even painful to the intellect, but it no doubt sharpens one’s comprehension, thinking, response, assimilation and reflection. There is also a crucial balance maintained between presentations and class work. The openness of the class/teacher and the receptivity and initiative by the students often results in discussions with practical applications of studied material. The readings are very insightful and they help broaden one’s outlook from the traditional learning happening in other classes. 

Former K3 student , Graduation year : 2019

I took this course for two main reasons: 1) I had been in Uday’s English class back in E6 and had profoundly enjoyed it and 2) Prior students of this course had given me very good reviews of this course… This course has had a major effect on my thought process and I would recommend it to all those who wish to learn and eventually internalise the ability to think and question effectively. I should warn you, this course is for those who are willing to put in the necessary time and effort because the course will be demanding.

Former K2 student, Graduation year : 2023

This course should be on the top of the list of classes to join in Knowledge. This course requires a lot of hard work. So time yourself well. I would suggest students join this course in the 2nd year of K as in the 1st year you are new and maybe confused, whereas in the 3rd year you may end up having too much on your plate for other reasons.

Former K1 student , Graduation year : 2023

This course is indispensable for any k student who wants to successfully complete his education at SAICE. Uday, is a great teacher..One has to be willing to put in hhhhhard wwwwork for this course since there is a lot of interesting material to cover. I think I have developed the ability to ask better questions after this class.

Former K3 student, Graduation year : 2019

This course was one of the very few I was looking forward to and actually tried to work consistently. Would definitely recommend this course. It was amazing, I really enjoyed the grind. I came in hoping that I would learn lots, since it was Uday, and I had him as teacher earlier. Rest assured, you will learn a lot and this course will enlarge your mind in many ways, probably improve your expression skills, because it will encourage you to speak and dissect subjects, and this way you would probably discover your innate capabilities, but you have to pay attention to what others are saying, synthesize their thoughts, and really spend time polishing your work. 

Former K2 student , Graduation year : 2022

I enjoyed the course. My critical thinking skills improved by leaps and bounds by the end of the year.. I learnt just what I was expecting from the course: ask more questions and everything one reads about and make smart decisions in our everyday problems and life. Anyone who is interested in understanding the importance of critical thinking and its effectiveness in one’s decision making should take the course. Bonus of this course are the case studies, super enjoyable to examine and study.

Former K2 student, Graduation year : 2022

This course helped me in many ways. Initially, I was a mess. I used to hesitate to share my views with others. My questioning skills needed some polishing. I wasn’t articulate. But with the help of the handouts and the many concepts discussed in class, I improved all these flaws in me. I learned how to ask the right questions. Not only that, but this course also helped me break my biases. It made me aware of the logical fallacies that I make unconsciously. The course is definitely interesting, but for those of you who are not used to working with material that acquires deep thinking, it might get strenuous. while. On the whole, this course is definitely worth giving a try.

Former K2 student , Graduation year : 2023

This course overall elevates you as a thinking creature. It makes one Question, Think and Understand the things that people generally oversee. Personally, I have seen my inquisitiveness and Questioning ability grow as I question and critically analyse anything that I’m faced with. I offer to speak to students about your class and convey to them the importance of having an outstanding Questioning /thinking ability!

Former K2 student, Graduation year : 2022


1 “The Creativity Crisis”, Bronson & Merryman, July 2010. Link:
2 Engel, S (2015) Can we talk? Educational Leadership, 73(1) 54-59