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Philosophy: the secret to success across the curriculum

“Why are we here?” “Why is the sky blue?” Whatever the lesson, children naturally ask the big questions in life but, amongst teaching and learning objectives and exam preparation, it’s this very curiosity that schools should act upon, says North Bridge House Prep School’s headteacher, Mr Bibby.

In today’s results obsessed society, schools may question the time and place for philosophy on the curriculum. Isn’t philosophy too difficult for children; a tangent too deviant to structure into lessons that actually help them learn?

“Some prep schools may argue that seven-year-olds are too young to comprehend the answers to their rogue questions, but addressing them in meaningful group discussions teaches children how to think critically and analytically,” says the North Bridge House head.

In Mr Bibby’s experience, philosophy is best taught through conversation – particularly in Prep School – because it requires a response. Given children’s level of understanding at this age, they need a group to challenge them and bounce ideas around.

“The academic benefits of teaching philosophy can be enormous. Group discussion helps children learn how to express and convey their thoughts, whilst teaching them to respect the differing opinions of others. As they consider the alternative views of their classmates, they become more open-minded and learn to explore other trains of thought,” he explains.

NBH Prep School’s outstanding results certainly seem to evidence the academic advantages for pupils, who become very adept at analysing ideas and join the top senior schools in the country. Exploring more than one possible answer to a question has encouraged NBH pupils to think in a different way, beyond things being accepted as simply ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

Mr Bibby challenging NBH Prep School’s young philosophers

“Philosophy nurtures the art of listening, of assessing what has been said and developing a valid argument. These abilities, if taught well, endure long after school and throughout life,” says Mr Bibby.

Parents concerned more with their children succeeding in life as opposed to understanding life may be cynical of Kant in the classroom, thinking extra time could be given to other subjects. However, the Education Endowment Foundation has found that a year of philosophy results in pupils making two-month’s additional progress in maths and reading.

“At its core, philosophy is about developing rational thought – the ability to think through a problem following a logical series of steps, which underpins learning across all subjects, from maths to comprehension,” concludes North Bridge House Prep School’s headteacher.

North Bridge House Schools

North Bridge House Schools

North Bridge House Schools

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