In Victoria, both state support and an advisory panel with expertise in P4C were crucial to the implementation of Philosophy in the secondary curriculum.

In 1997, following the report Enhancing their Futures, senior secondary Philosophy because part of the two-year VCE. The report had recommended that ‘the Board of Studies investigate the feasibility of developing a further study in the humanities, based around theories of knowledge and approaches to philosophy.’ A review panel provided advice on drafts of the Philosophy study design throughout 1999, a small trial was held in government and independent schools in 2000, and in 2001 VCE Philosophy began. Since then it has introduced students to ideas in ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology.

In 2008, the Australian government led the creation of the Australian Curriculum. Discussions on including Philosophy in Australian national and state curricula have been long and continue. Historical developments show that these discussions and ensuring attempts have been diverse and influenced by key players, such as those in P4C, teachers, academic philosophers, teacher educators, and others. In 2009, FAPSA and the Australian Association of Philosophy (AAP) submitted a proposal to ACARA to include Philosophy in the Australian Curriculum. Despite support, there was doubt about Philosophy as an independent key learning area. The submission noted the following: (1) it would assist young people to meet key goals; (2) it would make a pre-eminent contribution to meeting a number of general capabilities mooted for the national curriculum; (3) there were sound reasons why Philosophy should be a discrete learning area; and (4) the identified challenges to its inclusion could be met. The proposal argued that philosophy’s contribution to general education could be facilitated through a focus on logical thinking and ethical understanding. The general capabilities would be supported through teaching thinking skills, encouraging creativity, and promoting deep ethical reflection, while an approach to Philosophy based on the collaborative methods founded by Lipman and others, would assist the development of teamwork and social competence. The submission was unsuccessful. However, Critical & Creative Thinking and Ethical Understanding are listed in the general capabilities. In the case of Critical & Creative Thinking, the Australian Curriculum makes specific reference to foundational research on the philosophical community of inquiry by Lipman, Sharp, and Oscanyan (1980), and the evidence drawn on for the inclusion and development of the Ethical Understanding Capability also refers to the research of Australian educational philosophers Burgh, Field, and Freakley (2006). The core elements of each capability reflect the input of FAPSA and AAP. However, the question remains for FAPSA whether it is timely to revisit arguments for the formal recognition of Philosophy in the Australian Curriculum.

Adapted from the following:

  • Gilbert Burgh and Simone Thornton, ‘From Harry to Philosophy Park: The Development of Philosophy for Children Materials in Australia’ in The Routledge International Handbook of Philosophy for Children, Routledge, 2016
  • Janette Poulton, ‘Teacher Education and Professional Development’, in Philosophical Inquiry with Children: The Development of an Inquiring Society in Australia, Gilbert Burgh & Simone Thornton (eds.), Routledge, 2019
  • Monica Bini, Peter Ellerton, Sue Knight, Stephan Millett, and Alan Tapper, ‘Philosophy and the Curriculum’, in Philosophical Inquiry with Children: The Development of an Inquiring Society in Australia, Gilbert Burgh & Simone Thornton (eds.), Routledge, 2019
  • Kate Kennedy White with Liz Fynes-Clinton, Lynne Hinton, Jill Howells, Emmanuel Skoutas, Daniel Smith, and Matthew Wills, in Philosophical Inquiry with Children: The Development of an Inquiring Society in Australia, Gilbert Burgh & Simone Thornton (eds.), Routledge, 2019
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