In New South Wales public schools there is a period of time set aside each week for teaching ethics or scripture. Following legislative changes in 2010, families can now choose for their child to go to ethics classes as an alternative to spending that time in supervised care or scripture classes.
In designing our curriculum, Dr Sue Knight, a distinguished academic in the field of philosophical education for children, has adapted a long respected philosophical tradition of dialogue and discussion. Each lesson is reviewed by an expert panel, chaired by Dr Simon Longstaff of The Ethics Centre, for both philosophical rigour and best practice in instructional design.
Volunteer ethics teachers use detailed lesson materials to deliver a curriculum of 79 topics. Most topics are designed to address particular ethical issues but a number are skill-focused and explicitly teach core critical thinking skills and encourage collaborative inquiry.
To review the curriculum topics, please click on the stage you are interested in, or click here to read our curriculum objectives.
INFANTS: YEARS K – 2
Ethics classes for infant years focus on developing core skills such as listening to others, taking turns to speak and giving reasons.
Stories, poems and rhymes prompt children to discuss ethical issues such as hurting someone without meaning to, telling the truth, being kind, forgiving, ownership, fairness and empathy.
Our skills-based topics for this age group include asking and answering questions, disagreeing, changing your mind, working out what is true, giving and evaluating reasons as well as giving examples and counterexamples. Logic is also introduced at this stage with topics touching on inductive inference and deductive reasoning.
PRIMARY: YEARS 3 – 6
Ethics classes for primary aged students have a strong focus on the development of critical thinking and discussion based skills.
Stories, contemporary issues and real life scenarios form the basis of discussions on ethical issues such as selfishness, how we should treat living things, promises, greed, friendship, cheating, voting, punishment, homelessness, teasing and fairness in society.
Skills-based topics for this age group include inferring or figuring things out, validity, generalising, proving claims, structuring arguments, identifying incorrect conclusions, identifying faulty reasoning, evaluating the strength of evidence and thinking about thinking. Primary aged students are encouraged to develop their community of inquiry skills by asking each other well thought out questions and challenging each other’s arguments.
Who delivers ethics classes?
Ethics classes are taught by volunteers trained and supported by Primary Ethics. Parents, grandparents and community-minded people are invited to learn more about becoming volunteer ethics teachers in their local primary school.
For around an hour a week, you can help children develop the skills to think critically, express and discuss ideas collaboratively, and make well-reasoned decisions rather than choices based on habit or peer pressure. With more volunteers, more children in more schools can have access to ethics classes.