The majority of teachers say that their students leave school for university without learning "essential" critical thinking skills, an international survey has found.
More than 1,000 teachers from across the globe were asked to rank the skills needed for success in higher education and 92 per cent identified critical thinking as one of the most important.
They also thought it was the skill their students most commonly lacked when they began their post-16 courses at school. The Cambridge International Examinations research revealed that 85 per cent of the teachers thought it was missing at that stage of their students’ education.
However, despite the importance the staff placed on critical thinking, with only "independent thinking and learning" rated higher, the survey suggests that teachers are unsuccessful in helping their students acquire it.
Asked which skills students currently lacked when they entered university after school, 56 per cent of the teachers said they were still unable to think critically.
Michael O’Sullivan, Cambridge International Examinations chief executive, said: “We believe that students must be able to think and learn for themselves before they start university.
"Without teaching our young people these vital skills, they will be less likely to succeed in the highly-pressurised world of higher education. This new research supports the message we get from our schools.”
The exam board has developed a post-16 qualification – the Cambridge Pre-U – with universities to try and address the problem and improve student learning skills.
But only 45 of the 1,089 teachers responding to the survey use the qualification. The pre-U is currently only available in the UK, although international pilots have begun.
The poll involved teachers using the exam board’s qualifications in more than 50 different countries.
About 150 teach in India, approximately 140 each responded from the UK and the USA and about 70 of those taking part teach in China.