How is philosophy in schools taught?
Philosophy is taught in some schools in Australasia at primary, secondary and/or senior secondary levels (Years K-13). Philosophy for children (P4C) sessions take the form of communities of inquiry, where a facilitator encourages students to make philosophical considerations in the pursuit of solving complex problems. Through democratic student led discussions, where the teacher acts as a facilitator of philosophical dialogue, children learn critical, creative and caring thinking skills. At secondary and senior secondary levels, studying philosophy resembles many other subjects in humanities and the social sciences, where students focus on relevant literature in a specific field, are provided with a range of thinking tools, and encouraged to use these tools to respond to given material. Many schools offer philosophy as a valuable precursor to University level study. We recommend that you check what’s available for you locally.
Why study or introduce philosophy in schools?
There are plenty of great reasons to study philosophy. By learning philosophy at school students can creatively explore interesting topics, all while developing important skills. These skills help students to make better sense of the world and can be of benefit to their growth in all sorts of valuable ways. Teaching programs are designed to foster greater critical thinking, creativity and communication skills and provide students with significant advantages in a variety of core skills. Consequently, they make a significant contribution to general educational goals for young students. A further contribution is made to the pre-eminent general capabilities that students are to acquire, and to the acquisition of a wide range of these capabilities. In addition, studying philosophy can improve performance in other subjects, such as in English and Maths, and promotes social and behavioural improvements. It is for this reason that some have argued that philosophy should be taught in Australian schools, as it would increase declining NAPLAN results. Consequently, in 2009, FAPSA and the AAP formed a Working Party to promote the inclusion of philosophy in the National Curriculum. This proposal outlined further reasons for why philosophy in schools would be of such a great benefit to Australasian students. A summary on this can be read here.
What does philosophy in schools look like?
Interested to know what the practice of embedding thinking skills in school-aged students is all about? We encourage you to check out the videos below.
Getting involved in events for school aged children, including interschool events, is a great way to get involved in philosophy. Interschool events encourage school students to investigate ethical and philosophical questions in the context of ‘communities of inquiry’. Participating in the event helps students to develop higher order thinking and communication skills through a series of discussions with students from other schools.
These discussions are facilitated by philosophy teachers and adjudicated by a panel of educators. While there is an element of competition in an interschool event, it aims to promote a sense of community by developing a shared understanding in a spirit of cooperation. It also develops skills in inquiry-based learning, ethical reasoning, higher-order reflective thinking and a search for meaning through dialogue about open questions and contestable concepts.
The AAP hosts an annual Australasian Philosothon and supports various interschool events in schools across Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. For more information see: https://www.philosothon.org/site/
Resources for teachers
Are you a teacher looking for resources to help introduce thinking skills into your curriculum? Or looking to engage in professional development? Are you a student or parent looking for resources and events in your area? Below is a list of regional resources for philosophy in schools in Australasia.
The Federation of Australasian Philosophy in Schools Associations (FAPSA) is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to promote philosophy in schools in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore: http://www.fapsa.org.au/. See the links below for state based Associations in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore dedicated to promoting and supporting philosophy in schools.