Philosophy for Children in the Philippines

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Can the Philosophy for Children program function in the formal educational institutions of our country today? Provide an account on whether its methodology and curriculum serves as effective means to educate elementary and high school Filipino children.

The Philosophy for Children program seeks to foster inclinations towards philosophy among children through the community of inquiry. It is supposed to be incorporated in the child's education in order to develop the child's thinking and reasoning abilities. The program ideally complements the present structure of education. The proposal is to include the program in the regular school curriculum as a series of lessons attended by the child at least two times a week.

The traditional school and classroom setup does not fully develop the natural gift and curiosity of children. At worst, traditional schooling may even cause the child to lose interest in learning. Philosophy classes will be held to address this problem of the traditional schooling setup. The physical conditions of the class, the method used and the nature of discussion differ significantly from that of the traditional classroom setup. In the philosophy class the children and the teacher sit to form a circle. A philosophical story or a part of a philosophical novel is read aloud and then reviewed by the children. After the allotted thinking time, the children share and write individual points for discussion. A topic will be chosen as the focus of the discussion and the topic is explored by this community of inquiry. The story stimulates the students to think, ask questions and deliberate on certain issues. The curriculum consists of the philosophical story and the teacher's manual which contains a Discussion Plan and/or exercises to facilitate the exploration of an issue that arises out of the story. The dialogue occurs within the frame of the community of inquiry. Through a series of constant stimulation, the children develop critical and reflective thinking which they can use in all other areas of their education. These skills are important especially in subjects or topics in other classes that have moral implications. For example, in a Values Education class in the traditional setup, the teacher lectures about morality and a child whose critical thinking skills are poor would naturally just take what the teacher says as gospel truths without really analyzing if indeed the teacher was right. Simple statements of a teacher that may contain slurs about other religions might affect the child's point of view and morality. This is what the program will try to eliminate.

The program is relatively new. There are only a few written works and studies on the possibility of introducing the program to the school curriculum. It is gaining popularity on the global scale but compared to the industrialized countries, its development in the Philippines will most likely be a slower one and will require more tedious work. Three of the problems have been enumerated in the essay Philosophy for Children in Developing Countries: The Philippine Experience by Dr. Holder. The first concerns the modification of the materials particularly in the choice of language to be used both in the materials and the implementation. The country speaks a variety of languages and these languages have a politics of their own. If the Filipino is to be used the advantages of the English language will be compensated such as future educational and job opportunities.

The second concern is the differences in the pedagogical training of the teachers from their actual practices. Despite having been trained in contemporary pedagogical theories, teachers apparently still teach traditionally. There is minimal class interaction and also less creative teaching methods employed.

Last of the problems enumerated by the essay was the cynicism about the program, being imported. This issue has its cultural and political roots. Over the years, the...
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