More Youthful Ideas

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Byline: JAMES GRYLLS

PHILOSOPHY lessons are making a comeback in Scotland's schools despite claims that the education system has been 'dumbed down' - and primary-age pupils are leading the way.

Philosophy was only introduced as a Higher Still examination within the last two years but the number of pupils taking the subject has risen dramatically, from 488 in 2001 to 753 this year - an increase of The number of pupils taking Higher Religion Moral and Philosophy Studies has risen 12.3 per cent, from 1,440 to 1,618. There has also been an increase of more than 15 per cent in students taking the subject at university in the last three years.

But the biggest growth in interest has been in primary schools. Dozens of schools around 54.3 per cent.

the UK have begun teaching the subject, but Clackmannanshire was the first local authority in Britain to introduce it for all its younger pupils last year.

Soon, every child in the upper primary will have the opportunity to tackle key questions for an hour once every week.

The interest in the subject seems to be part of a worldwide trend. In the U.S., around 6,000 schools offer philosophy as an integral part of the curriculum while in France it is a compulsory subject for sixth-formers. At least 30 other countries use it as a teaching tool for children.

Experts believe that, although studying philosophers such as Socrates and Aristotle has little benefit for children under the age of seven, it can help those above that age develop their ability to reason.

Educationalists point out that if a child is asked a question and he or she answers it, that only proves they remember the answer. It does nothing, however, to improve their deductive powers. A spokesman for Clackmannanshire Council said philosophy 'gives children the power to evaluate and think critically about what they learn instead of taking everything at face value'.

Professor Richard Stalley, head of the philosophy department at Glasgow University, said: 'Quite a lot of philosophy is now being taught in Scottish schools with the new Highers and it has proved surprisingly popular. …