Nursery class

Children are taught philosophy in nursery

Children as young as four are being taught philosophy in nursery, BBC Scotland has learned.The Clackmannanshire Council initiative is believed to be the first run by a local authority in Britain.

New research from Dundee University suggests learning philosophy raises children’s IQ by up to 6.5 points and improves their emotional intelligence.

The study tracked progress of secondary school pupils in Clackmannanshire who received philosophy lessons in primary.


Philosophy can be described as rational investigation of existence, ethics and knowledge, experts said.

Teachers use stimuli such as a story or picture to encourage learners to think about things at a deeper level.

They ask children simple, open-ended questions such as “how do you know that? What shows that?”.

Paul Cleghorn, the head teacher who spearheaded the school philosophy launch in Clackmannanshire primary schools six years ago, said starting the subject early in life had a profound effect on young people’s behaviour.

He said: “The critical thing about it is that it allows the youngster to move to a level where informed choice can be made.

“It is not about the surface level information about something.

“For example in health education, let’s say smoking or drugs education, if it is on a factual level youngsters are smart enough to give the right answers but that does not actually impact on their behaviour and the choices they make.”

 It shows that the time children spend in exploring philosophical concepts … is a good long term investment for their future 
Dr Steve Trickey

The Dundee University research tracked the progress in secondary school of a control group and the children in Clackmannanshire who learnt philosophy in primary.

It indicates it does have a long term impact.

Professor Keith Topping and Dr Steve Trickey said that the self-esteem of pupils and confidence rose.

Pupils were more aware of their own and the feelings of others and classroom behaviour improved, the research said.

Dr Trickey said: “It shows that the time children spend in exploring philosophical concepts through structured inter-active classroom practices such as the ‘Thinking Through Philosophy’ programme, is a good long term investment for their future.”

Clackmannanshire Council is now seeking to extend the approach into secondary schools and nurseries.