Philosophy lessons lead to better behaviour and marks in Sydney school


Burgeoning stress among students is keeping them away from themselves and they are getting into the trap of everything unthinkable. Parents and teachers both are equally anxious by their obnoxious behaviour and degrading performance.

Malabar Public School in Sydney seems to be providing solution for this and every Wednesday afternoon in term 3, students put away their textbooks and assemble in their classrooms to discuss about everything form fear and beauty to terrorism and other global issues.

The hour-long lesson is part of a growing movement to bring philosophy into public schools.

In Kindergarten, teachers engage students in discussion by asking simple questions such as "what is your favourite fruit?”

"One of the tools might be the word 'because', which tells them that when they answer a question they need to use the because tool," said Rachel Borthwick, who is a year 2 teacher at the school.

"It endows them with reasoning skills and whether they agree or disagree with each other, they've always got to back that up."

Malabar’s principal Neil Atwell who kicked off the initial development of a philosophy program and resources more than a decade ago said that the program was intended to help the school stand out and improve debating skills. However, Mr Atwell said he soon started seeing other benefits.

"Behaviour started improving in the classroom and the playground, we weren't having children resorting to antisocial behaviours to solve problems but using words to sort their differences out instead," Mr Atwell said.

Children now have been seeing using their newly acquired skills to solve issues around exclusion and friendship.

Mr Atwell asserted that now more schools want students to engage in such activities but a greater focus on assessments and time pressures have made it difficult for all schools to implement philosophy.