I was fascinated by a news article from the BBC last week (Nursery pupils taught philosophy), about a recent initiative to teach philosophy to primary school children. The research has been going on for a while, but has just been published. There is a fuller story with more colour to it in the Educational Guardian and the press release is on the Clackmannanshire Council (Scotland) website: “New research from Dundee University suggests learning philosophy raises children’s IQ by up to 6.5 points and improves their emotional intelligence.”

I have been planning to study a little philosophy and critical thinking for myself (for which I haven’t found that many resources yet). Not that you want to spend too much time hanging around with people who spend all the time thinking about thinking. Don’t think about that one too much. However, it seems that a bit of philosophy as a child does do us good, according to this research. The original work was carried out by Professor Keith Topping at the University of Dundee.

The key findings of the study were that:

  • There were significant improvements in cognitive (thinking) abilities. (on average 6.5 IQ points)
  • Pupils’ self-esteem and confidence rose.
  • Pupils were more aware of their own feelings and those of others.
  • Classroom behaviour improved.

The Philosophy for Children (P4C) process includes three features central to promoting cognitive skills and educational attainment:

  • cognitive challenge, a situation that lacks a simple factual answer and requires thought to resolve or clarify.
  • social construction, working together to develop understanding or resolution that would not be possible working individually.
  • metacognition, reflecting on and developing awareness of the thinking and learning processes used.

To summarise it all another way: If you use your brain, you get smarter. There you have it. These are all valuable work place skills, if you work with technology or not.

Anyway, time to dig out that introduction to philosophy book. You’ll have to pull me back from the edge, if it pushes me over it!

There is an update, linking to the final research here: A little bit of philosophy realy does make you smart.