PH NatCom and PCYNAP Spear head the first Conference on “Cultural Concerns in Teaching Philosophy for Children and Youth in the Asia-Pacific Region”


Philosophy has always been at the core of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) mandate of providing women and men with openings for self-discovery and the discovery of others, to understand change in order to shape it towards a better future for all. In the recent celebration of World Philosophy Day (November 19), UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova called for raising the flag for philosophy, as high as possible, to engage every woman and man, and especially every girl and boy, to share the wonder of philosophy more widely and differently.

UNESCO enjoys long-standing cooperation with networks of philosophy teachers. In line with this, UNESCO supported the initiative of the Philosophy with Children and Youth Network for Asia and the Pacific (PCYNAP), an organization composed of educators and students in Philosophy in the Asia-Pacific region. PCYNAP highlights the importance of developing critical thinking in children from their very early years.

Under UNESCO's Participation Programme for the Biennium 2014-2015, the PCYNAP, through partnership with the Philippines National Commission for UNESCO (PH NatCom), held a Conference entitled "Cultural Concerns in Teaching Philosophy for Children and Youth in the Asia-Pacific Region" participated in by over a hundred delegates including international experts and local participants engaged in several discussions and workshops/sessions on how P4C is currently being taught in the Philippines and in other countries and how it may be further developed and integrated in the respective countries’ education systems. Said Conference was held at the Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City from 09-11 December 2015.

During the first day of the Conference, Ms. Lindsay Barrientos, Officer-in-Charge of the PH NatCom, underscored the essential contribution of philosophy to the human well-being and encouraged the participants to bring the fruits of the Conference to broader audiences, especially the stories and methodologies employed by practitioners in the Asian region.

On the same day, the international delegation shared their country's experiences and practices in P4C. The international delegation was composed of Thanh Mai Bui Duy from Vietnam, Mikhael Dua from Indonesia, Valerio Rireh from Myanmar, Lida Sim from Cambodia, Rosnani Hashim from Malaysia, Kristie Chen and Melvin Ng from Singapore, Jinwhan Park from the Republic of Korea, Janette Poulton from Australia, and Zosimo Lee from the Philippines. Several of the delegates agreed that children in Asia find it hard to ask questions during discussions due to the high regard that adults are given in the culture of respect for elders.

Professor Dua of Atmajaya Catholic University of Indonesia in Jakarta expressed how P4C is slowly and painstakingly being birthed in the classrooms of Indonesia. "[In Eastern culture], it is not easy to promote critical thinking," said Dua.

Meanwhile, Dr. Poulton of the Melbourne Institute of Technology, mentioned that Australia's classrooms are attended by a very diverse set of students, a lot of whom come from Asia. She shared that these students bring along with them their individual cultures, traditions, and upbringing, and it must take conscious effort on the part of the teachers to get to know their students well.

The second and third days of the Conference were held through workshops for public and private high school teachers and Philosophy educators who represented different institutions all over the Philippines. The workshops, conducted by Dr. Park, Ms. Chen and Mr. Ng, Dr. Poulton, and Ateneo de Manila University professors Glenda Oris and Rowena Azada-Palacios, were received by the participants very well.

Dr. Park, professor at Gyeongsang National University and also the president of PCYNAP, admired the level of participation of the teachers in his workshop for teaching P4C in the high school level.

The final afternoon of the Conference was held through a teaching demonstration by Center of Excellence in Public Elementary Education (CENTEX) Manila, a program of the Ayala Foundation, Inc. Forty students and two teachers illustrated how P4C is being taught to students from financially disadvantaged homes in Metro Manila. The students, who have grown with the P4C method, exemplified inquisitiveness and critical thinking as their teachers allowed them to ask questions and answer queries from their classmates and the observers.

Dr. Zosimo Lee, trainer for CENTEX and professor at the University of the Philippines and Ateneo de Manila University, said that "Several of the observers said they were rather impressed with the fact that the children were articulate in raising their questions and views. The children were also kind, perhaps as a result of having been the beneficiaries of caring thinking from their teachers."

Dr. Rainier Ibana, Vice-Chairperson of the Social and Human Sciences of PH NatCom, expressed gratitude to the organizers and participants. He signified PCYNAP's hope to further P4C efforts by conducting a follow-up to the Conference within the Asia-Pacific region.