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Critically thinking about philosophy

An initiative aimed at supporting the study of philosophy at secondary school level is being spearheaded by the University of St Andrews.

Philosophy is currently available at around ninety secondary schools in Scotland, but is a relatively new addition to the Higher syllabus. As a result, leading philosophers at St Andrews have launched a series of initiatives to help both teachers and pupils expand their knowledge of the subject.

The University’s Departments of Philosophy welcomed aspiring philosophers and teachers from all over Scotland today (Monday 26 March 2007) for a special Philosophy Study Day. The Departments already host a number of outreach events throughout the year, but today’s event – which involved 130 S5/6 pupils and 20 teachers – is thought to be the biggest philosophy outreach event of its kind in the country.

The Philosophy Study day is aimed at boosting teachers and pupils’ knowledge, as a supplement to their Higher curriculum, and to encourage the continuation of the subject post Higher. The all-day event covers areas of philosophy such as Epistemology, Critical Thinking, Metaphysics and Moral Philosophy, where students will be encouraged to think about issues such as free will.

Organiser Dr Lisa Jones, a Teaching Fellow and Director of Outreach, said,

“In the UK, unlike in other European countries, philosophy has not traditionally been an integral part of secondary education. This is a great pity, as exposure to philosophical questions and training in philosophical methods can equip students with important and highly transferable skills, such as the ability to think critically and analytically, to reflect on complex concepts, and to articulate arguments or claims clearly.

“Happily, however, the situation is now changing, with more and more UK secondary schools introducing philosophy into the syllabus. Here in Scotland, around 90 schools currently offer the Higher in philosophy, and this number is on the increase. We at the Department of Philosophy in St Andrews are keen to encourage this growth, and are committed to supporting philosophy in Schools however we can.”

The event is the second of its kind following the successful completion of a pilot day held last year. Schools are represented from the local areas of Fife and Dundee, but also from Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness and Edinburgh. Last year, the event was attended by pupils from Oban, but due to time and travel restrictions, Oban were unable to take part this time around. Instead, St Andrews philosophers took the study day ‘on the road’ and delivered the programme to them direct in the comfort of their own school.

The schools initiative was initially suggested by Scott Duncan, a philosophy teacher at nearby Waid Academy, who felt that schools had much to gain from University-level support.

Dr Jones explained, “Events like the Philosophy Study Day are designed to provide support and inspiration, offering students a revision opportunity as well as stretching their knowledge a little further, and giving them an insight into how philosophy is carried out at University level.”

The University has also delivered a similar event aimed specifically at teachers – since there is no secondary teaching certificate in the subject, teachers in Scotland have no specific philosophy training other than what exists in the existing Moral and Philosophical Studies Higher. Around 30 teachers from all over the country took part in the recent event and it is hoped that this will also be an annual event at St Andrews.

ENDS

NOTE TO EDITORS:

DR LISA JONES IS AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW TODAY ON 07974 220 106 OR AFTER TODAY ON 01334 462489, EMAIL lj14@st-andrews.ac.uk

NOTE TO PICTURE EDITORS:

YOU ARE INVITED TO A PHOTOCALL OF THE SCHOOL PUPILS AND TEACHERS INVOLVED IN TODAY’S PHILOSOPHY LEARNING DAY – THE GROUP WILL GATHER IN FRONT OF SCHOOLS II AND III, ST SALVATOR’S QUADRANGLE, NORTH STREET, ST ANDREWS AT 2.30PM

Issued by Press Office, University of St Andrews

Contact Gayle Cook, Press Officer on 01334 467227 / 462529, mobile 07900 050 103, or email gec3@st- andrews.ac.uk

Ref: Critically thinking about Philosophy 260307

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