VUB promotes critical thinking in secondary education

VUB promotes critical thinking in secondary education

VUB rector Jan Danckaert addresses pupils at Jan van Ruusbroeck college in Brussels

The rector of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) is one of more than 50 professors teaching final-year pupils in secondary education about how to critically respond to opinions, information and news. Recent studies show that the unfiltered spread of radical viewpoints, fake news and hate speech via social media is having a negative impact on too many young people. The guest classes are part of the VUB’s PACT public programme.

With the initiative, the VUB is supporting the work done by schools to train young people to become empowered, critical and democratic citizens. Professors create dialogue through guest lectures on current and interesting topics in their fields of expertise, to sharpen pupils’ critical thinking skills. This is needed more than ever in today’s polarised society, where disinformation, fake news, censorship and propaganda are creating unrest and drowning out open and constructive debate

Today, rector Jan Danckaert gave a guest lecture as part of the PACT School Tour at the Jan van Ruusbroeck college in Brussels, to an audience of more than 50 pupils from the sixth year.

“Academics should actively contribute to social debate. They can use their scientific methodology to teach young people to think critically about others’ opinions, information and news spread via social media. Science offers them a structured approach to discovering the truth and distinguishing fact from fiction, helping them to step out of their social media bubble and take a critical stance against unsubtle populist views, fake news, hate speech and conspiracy thinking. We see this initiative as part of our mission as an urban engaged university, through which we aim to be an engine of change in society,” says Jan Danckaert.


Crucial months

Until the end of May, the PACT School Tour is visiting almost 100 secondary schools in the various education networks in Flanders and Brussels. The VUB is reaching thousands of young people in the crucial months before this year’s elections.

“With our tour of Flanders and Brussels, we are inspiring young people to study and gain their diploma, as well as encouraging critical thinking. That is a basic requirement for successfully completing higher education, and it’s an attitude to life that is needed more than ever in our rapidly changing world, where we are inundated with information that isn’t always reliable. The VUB aims to provide a space where critical thinking can develop,” says Jan Danckaert



*About PACT and the School Tour

The PACT School Tour is part of VUB’s public programme: a programme for everyone who thinks the world can be different and believes that scientific insights, critical thinking and dialogue are an important first step to making a difference to your environment and the world. PACT stands for Pauwels Academy of Critical Thinking and is named after honorary VUB rector Caroline Pauwels (1964-2022). Its aim is to promote and enhance social dialogue based on critical thinking.



Sam Jaspers
Sam Jaspers Woordvoerder a.i., perscontact wetenschap & onderzoek



About Press - Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Vrije Universiteit Brussel is an internationally oriented university in Brussels, the heart of Europe. By providing excellent research and education on a human scale, VUB wants to make an active and committed contribution to a better society.

The World Needs You

The Vrije Universiteit Brussel assumes its scientific and social responsibility with love and decisiveness. That’s why VUB launched the platform De Wereld Heeft Je Nodig – The World Needs You, which brings together ideas, actions and projects based on six Ps. The first P stands for People, because that’s what it’s all about: giving people equal opportunities, prosperity, welfare, respect. Peace is about fighting injustice, big and small, in the world. Prosperity combats poverty and inequality. Planet stands for actions on biodiversity, climate, air quality, animal rights... With Partnership, VUB is looking for joint actions to make the world a better place. The sixth and last P is for Poincaré, the French philosopher Henri Poincaré, from whom VUB derives its motto that thinking should submit to nothing except the facts themselves. VUB is an ‘urban engaged university’, strongly anchored in Brussels and Europe and working according to the principles of free research.


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