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Philosophy for/with Children

P4C stands for Philosophy for/with Children. This educational programme is designed to help children philosophise and develop indispensable skills and abilities. This programme was started by Mathew Lipman, then a professor of Philosophy at Columbia University, in the early 1970s. His interactions with university students left him feeling that many skills required to philosophise effectively need to be developed in students. He believed students should get initiated into philosophy in schools to develop these skills and abilities effectively. He and his main collaborator, Ann Margaret Sharp, developed the Philosophy for Children program at Montclair Saint University, New Jersey. 


A P4C session, in its earliest conception, went as follows: The group would consist of a few children and a facilitator. This group is called the Community of Inquiry. The facilitator would read out an excerpt from philosophical novels that were specially developed for the P4C programme by Lipman. This excerpt acted as a trigger for the philosophical dialogue that would follow. The children were required to ask any questions they might have had while the trigger was being read, and some questions out of these would be chosen (randomly or through a democratic process) to be discussed by the community of inquiry. Children were supposed to be at the centre of this endeavour. They were encouraged to ask questions, express their views, and respectfully listen to others. 


From this, Lipman and Sharp hoped to develop the “4Cs” in children: Critical Thinking, Creative Thinking, Collaborative Thinking, and Caring Thinking. The conviction behind this design was that children could think logically (despite the prevalent assertions of a deficit conception of childhood) and learn well in a community with their peers. John Dewey and Lev Vygotsky majorly influenced Lipman.


The programme started showing promising results, and as a result, it spread rapidly in the USA and internationally. The format of the P4C session started varying gradually, as did the triggers. Various educators slightly changed the programme to adapt it according to their contexts. Currently, P4C is practised in varying forms, such as Philosophy with Children (PwC) and Philosophy for Children (PfC) in over 60 countries worldwide. Many organisations worldwide are working on the research and dissemination of P4C. These include IAPCPLATO, ICPIC, SAPERE, MAPwC and FAPSA. A wide body of literature demonstrates the success and the potential of P4C in multiple domains, including but not limited to the 4Cs. Empirical evidence exists for the success of P4C in the domains of critical thinking, divergent thinking, agency of children, interdisciplinarity, aesthetics, life skills, emotional intelligence and many others. 


In line with the NEP 2020 and the accompanying curriculum frameworks, the education system in India is moving towards holistic education, interdisciplinarity and flexibility. P4C has tremendous potential towards fulfilling these goals. PPAI aims to introduce this programme in India to listen to children’s voices and contribute to their holistic education by enabling them to articulate, reason, listen, respect, understand and appreciate.

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