Philosophy in Schools

Philosophy in Schools is a program designed to support the development of critical thinking and reasoning in school children from 5 to 16 years old.

It offers a unique opportunity for pupils to achieve listening and questioning skills which can be applied to all subjects. In addition, the Philosophy in School program interacts with four core criteria in the National Curriculum of Excellence:

  • Confident Individuals: The sessions will develop children's confidence in voicing and defending their beliefs, and encourages them to think carefully about their values and motivations. In doing so, the scheme allows children to become self-aware and conscientious individuals.

  • Successful Learners: Pupils will develop critical analysis skills which help them to become inquiring thinkers. Philosophy encourages active learning, by helping individuals ask and answer questions about the world around them. This skill can be applied to all subject areas.

  • Effective Contributors: The Philosophy in Schools initiative is an innovative program designed to develop children's problem solving abilities by developing creative thinking "outside the box". They will develop communication skills which they can apply to a large variety of social situations.

  • Responsible Citizens: Philosophy involves the ability to appreciate other perspectives and to weight up the strengths of different arguments. Some of the sessions will explore ethical questions, encouraging children to think about how their behaviour affects others. Children will also learn how to listen to the views of others.

Research indicates that introducing Philosophy in classrooms led to a significant improvement in children’s performances on tests of verbal, numerical and spatial abilities, as well as in the quality of subsequent class discussions in subjects across the curriculum.

We started this program working with postgraduate students in the University of Edinburgh’s Philosophy Department.

Involvement carries no financial cost for the school!

Sessions will consist in interactive discussions centered around a thought-provoking story or example led by one of our postgraduates. Topics that can be covered include ethics and moral responsibility, problems and questions about free will, and issues around personal identity.

The stories and techniques that we use can be tailored to any school age group, from 6 to 17 years old.

We are well experienced in exposing school children to Philosophy. Over the last few years, we have successfully run workshops and school visits as part of the DUX Awards, the Early Initiative Program, the High-Flyers and the Kickstart Projects, and the Sutton Trust Summer School.

  • The DUX Awards is a scheme whereby a group of high performing school students of around 14 years of age visit the University for a day to meet students and staff in their areas of interest and take part in specially-designed academic activities. The Department of Philosophy of the University of Edinburgh participated in this programme for the first time this year (2013), running tutorial and discussion sessions on the model of our Philosophy in Schools programme.

  • High Flyers is a week-long residential programme attended by new S5 pupils from Wester Hailes Education Centre, Craigroyston Community High School, Newbattle Community High School and Drummond Community High School which represent some of the schools with the lowest progression to higher education in the Lothians. It is run by LEAPS and consists of subject workshops and campus visits to Edinburgh Universities. This was again philosophy’s first year of participating in the programme, and we successfully ran our Philosophy in Schools discussion sessions with the participating students.

  • The Kickstart Project is a collaborative project between Edinburgh Universities designed to give S5 pupils (around age 16) a fun and informative taster of what studying at University is like. Our Philosophy Department has been involved with this project for a number of years, and this year the workshop was delivered by students who had been trained as part of our Philosophy in Schools programme.

  • The Sutton Trust Summer School is part of a nationwide programme between selected Universities where pupils (ages 16-17) from across the UK with low progression backgrounds are funded to visit the University for a week to find out what studying at University is like. This was Edinburgh’s first year of involvement with the programme, and the Department of Philosophy ran a series of lectures, discussion and project-work sessions, again with the help of students trained as part of our Philosophy in Schools programme.

  • The University’s Early Years Initiative is a programme that runs school visits to primary and early secondary school pupils from Wester Hailes Education Centre and Liberton High School. This was also Philosophy’s first year of involvement in the programme, running our Philosophy in Schools sessions with P7 pupils (around age 11).

Eidyn offers also two free “Massive Open On-Line Course” (MOOCs): "Introduction to Philosophy", launched in January 2013, and the new "Philosophy and the Sciences" which run for the first time in September 2014. Both MOOCs are pitched at an ideal level for older secondary school children. In addition to the lectures, there is also a dedicated virtual learning environment set up which is staffed by experienced researchers who can answer questions and respond to discussions.

  • Our "Introduction to Philosophy" MOOC has modules in Epistemology, Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Mind, Ethics, and Metaphysics, with the lectures delivered by faculty members within our Department of Philosophy.
  • Our "Philosophy and the Sciences" MOOC will cover a range of topics in the Philosophy of the Physical Sciences and in the Philosophy of the Cognitive Sciences in collaboration with scientists in the relevant units.