Philosophy is all about teaching wisdom—the kind of wisdom a child needs to discover as they grow up to live a meaningful life.
That is why Rwandan teachers in the Eastern Province district of Kayonza have taken up philosophy lessons in their curricula so that children can improve their reasoning and moral judgment.
Classroom discussions stir up thinking that is skillful and purposeful, thinking that employs relevance and sensitivity. It is not just any kind of thinking, but critical thinking.
Fortunately, some schools offer such skills without necessarily calling them philosophy, and admit that they create an environment for children’s critical thinking.
Leonard Gakwaya, the Head Teacher of Orpcare Nursery and Primary school in Kayonza town admitted that children need to study philosophy. He noted that the process of education should focus on the improvement of critical thinking—the core of philosophy.
“After all, if reading and writing are taught to children under the backing of literature, why not make ‘reasoning’ and ‘judgment’ available to children under the support of Philosophy?” he questioned.
Gakwaya however, correctly admits that although Philosophy is suitable for any child, it is not something that can be readily taught by any teacher.
Gakwaya said that his school is set to hire highly qualified teachers in infant education, to teach critical thinking alongside other subjects.
It is important that children learn to think critically in order to attain relevant and reliable knowledge about their surroundings. Thinking based on reasoning, helps an individual to decide what to believe in and what to do.
“We should understand that developing critical thinking skills in children is as important as transmitting knowledge,” Gakwaya said.
John Kirenga a Primary School teacher at Rutonde School in Rwamagana district observed that children are usually abused because they do not have the capacity to say no to the evil done against them or yes to the good.
“If children had the ability to think critically, we would have no children in trouble,” Kirenga said.
According to the teacher thinking based on reasoning would reduce cases of rape and defilement among children.
“We don’t posses critical thinking skills right from birth; we can get from our teachers and parents,” Kirenga said.
“Children are often abused by older people because they don’t think critically whenever they are tricked into trouble. Critical thinking would help children attain relevant as well as reliable knowledge about their surroundings,” he said.
Critical thinking thus should be taught to children at a tender age because normally, children learn about different situations, while having fun and take more interest in learning more than adults.
Therefore, it is important that values like critical thinking skills or philosophy in general get initiated right from childhood.
According to Professor George K. Njorege a renowned African philosopher, parents and teachers should make full use of the fact that children can study and adapt easily, to instill the habit of critical thinking in their young minds.
“Philosophy for children is an important concern that would bring fundamental changes in children’s mind. Children should be able to say ‘NO’ to a wrong and ‘YES’ to a right,” he said.
Gakwaya, the Head teacher who has specialized in teaching infants reiterated the fact that adults memorize what they study, while children have room for adaptation.
There should not be any doubt therefore, as to whether children should be taught wisdom or critical thinking. It is high time that schools in Rwanda thought about adapting Philosophy as a subject in their curriculum.