Teaching philosophy in schools has shown amazing results for children’s cognitive and social skills.

When one thinks of philosophy, children do not usually come to mind. After all, it’s a field of study that requires deep thinking and understanding of life. However, a “large, well-designed study” conducted by the Education Endowment Foundation has suggested positively amazing results amongst children who were taught just an hour of philosophy a week.

The study shows that nine and ten-year-old children who participated over the course of one year greatly improved their literacy and math skills. What’s more, the students who benefitted the most were, in fact, disadvantaged ones.

The P4C (Philosophy for Children) teaching program was developed by professor Matthew Lipman in New Jersey in the 1970s to teach thinking skills through philosophical dialogue. It has successfully been adopted by schools in 60 countries, with documents supporting the impact it has on children’s cognitive, social and emotional development.

But how exactly does the program work?

The hour involves a structured session which begins with a stimulus. The children create their own philosophical questions based on the topic and then collectively choose one as their focus to discuss and debate on. The teacher encourages them to draw on their imagination and supports them on their reasoning and thinking, as well as listening to them when they share their thoughts.

So how can teaching philosophy to children benefit their development?

  • The inquiry-based approach opens up children’s learning by exploring ideas
  • It gives children the confidence that their ideas (as well as other’s) have value
  • They gain confidence to openly ask questions
  • It gives them a chance to speak and be heard without fear
  • Intelligence and general knowledge improvement
  • For the children who are academically shy, this gives them a chance to grow
  • For the children who are academically gifted, a chance to think outside the box

There are even more benefits that simply cannot be gained from traditional schooling. The outcomes for this program teach to think before they speak and to give reasons for what they say, as well as to value other’s views. It teaches to respect other’s and also their own views without being fearful. Most children have no grasp on any of these aspects of communication well into their teens and in some cases, even into their twenties.

Are there any advantages that carry beyond teaching philosophy in school into other aspects of a child’s life?

As stated in the above-mentioned study, the impact on other areas of the curriculum was proven to be positive. This is because it creates an enquiring classroom atmosphere that extends outside of the philosophy class. The development of listening and reasoning skills builds a sense of independence, and many children nurture a talent and ability for creative writing.

A little philosophy for a lot of benefits – evidently it goes a long way. Perhaps, adults too should dedicate an hour a week for this cause. There is a child in all of us who could greatly benefit from it.

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