Nelson Mandela said, ‘Education is the most powerful tool you can use to change the world’. He was talking from personal experience: he first used this tool to change his world, and this enabled him to change the world outside of himself.

Many young adults emerge from school with basic language skills, particularly those of reading and writing. They will have used these mostly to gain further subject-specific knowledge during their primary and secondary schooling. Yet tertiary education requires more advanced, self-reflective reading, writing and thinking skills.

Of these three skills, the advanced, self-reflective writing skill drives learning the other two. To illustrate this, not far into students' first tertiary courses, they will be required to complete written assignments – usually essays – on the material covered up to that point. To do so, they will need to read the material; they may need to do research to complement their readings; and they will need to organize their thoughts. All of this will be driven by the requirement to write on their topic.

Hence, in learning to understand how topic sentences work in writing expository texts, one learns how to identify these while reading and thinking about others' texts and to apply them in structuring one's own texts. Another aspect of the self-reflective, advanced writing skill is understanding the creative process and writing with this understanding. In a broader sense, the creative process is synonymous with the learning process.

If students have not been taught these advanced, self-reflective skills prior to embarking on their tertiary studies, they would do well to take responsibility for acquiring them, starting with learning about the creative process, the writing process, and language structuring terms and conventions. A very cost-effective way to do this would be to purchase The Natural Creative Process in Writing: A Core Writing and Editing Handbook for Everyone.

With their newly acquired self-reflective, advanced writing skill, students could progress to gaining more skill in the areas of reading and thinking.

With all three advanced foundational skills in place, success in the academic and working careers of everyone – no matter their age and stage – will be that much closer. They will be, as Nelson Mandela was, positioned to change their own lives and to influence the world as he did.

By Russell de la Porte

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