Philosophy for Children (P4C)

Philosophy for Children is a worldwide movement that was established over forty years ago by Professor Matthew Lipman of Montclair State University in the United States and is now practised around the world.

You can find out more from the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children (IAPC) and the International Council of Philosophical Inquiry with Children (ICPIC).

In P4C, a stimulus, such as a story, video clip or image, is shared with a group of children. The children are encouraged by a trained facilitator, such as a teacher, to come up with a philosophical question. For example:

  • Is it ever OK to lie?
  • What makes you you?
  • Do we have to respect everyone?
  • Can good people do bad things?
  • Do we all have the same rights?

The children then choose the question they would most like to discuss. The teacher gives the children time to think and reason individually about the question before facilitating the exchange of ideas and opinions as a group, or community of enquiry. Over time, the teacher supports the children to think more deeply and philosophically by encouraging the 4Cs of P4C – critical, creative, collaborative and caring thinking.

As questions grow more philosophical and imaginative, children learn to listen carefully to each other, to explore differences of opinion respectfully, and to value the ideas of others.

P4C is a whole school approach. It can be used across the curriculum, in every subject, and with all ages and abilities.

P4C is intended to be a regular activity so that the children develop their skills and understanding over time. The role of the facilitator is crucial to ensuring quality dialogue and progress, as well as integration with the curriculum.

P4C is a thorough pedagogy with considerable academic pedigree. Professor Matthew Lipman, frustrated by his students’ lack of engagement with learning and thinking, was influenced by educationalists and philosophers such as Vygotsky, Piaget, Dewey as well as the tradition of Socratic dialogue.

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