Our curriculum

Our curriculum gives students an opportunity to explore a wide range of ethical issues through discussion with their peers. Volunteer ethics teachers use highly detailed lesson materials to deliver this curriculum. Most topics are designed to help students explore particular ethical issues (for example: stealing, lying, fairness), while some topics are skills-focused and help students develop important skills for thinking critically and working together as a group.

When designing the curriculum Dr Sue Knight (a distinguished academic in the field of philosophical education for children – see below) adapted a long respected philosophical tradition of respectful discussion. This approach has significant social benefits. By learning to think about ethical matters together, through the give-and-take of reasoned argument, students learn to consider other people’s points of view and to be sincere, reasonable and respectful in dealing with their differences and disagreements.

To read more about our curriculum objectives, click here.

Each topic is reviewed by an expert panel, for best practice in teaching design and for philosophical rigour.

The structure and content of our curriculum has been informed by research in developmental psychology and education, including at what age children begin to understand different ideas (for example, they begin to develop an awareness of widely held stereotypes from around age 6). Our curriculum is designed to be both sequential and spiral, which means that ideas are introduced in simple forms in the early years and extended  in ever-greater complexity over the following years.

the structure of our curriculum

Infants: Years K – 2

Ethics classes for years K-2 focus on developing core skills such as listening to others, taking turns to speak and giving reasons to support their answers.

Stories, poems and rhymes prompt students to discuss ethical issues such as:

  • is it okay to make things up?
  • what does it mean to be kind to others?
  • should we be blamed if we hurt someone without meaning to?
  • what is the fairest way to share something?
  • is it important to understand the rules we follow?

Our skills-based topics for this age group consider:

  • how to ask and answer questions
  • how to disagree respectfully
  • being open to changing your mind
  • how to work out what is true
  • how to give reasons to support what you say and how to evaluate other people’s reasons (including giving examples and counter-examples).

To read a short description of each topic included in Early Stage 1 (Kindergarten) and Stage 1 (Y1-2), click on these buttons.

Early Stage One – Kindergarten

Stage One – Years 1 and 2

Primary: Years 3 – 6

Ethics classes for years 3-6 focus on the development of critical thinking and discussion-based skills.

Stories, contemporary issues and real-life scenarios prompt students to discuss ethical issues such as:

  • when (if ever) is it okay to break a promise?
  • how should we treat other living things?
  • is it okay to be greedy?
  • what does it mean to be an ethical consumer?
  • what are our individual and collective responsibilities to the homeless?

Our skills-based topics for this age group consider:

  • generalising
  • proving claims
  • structuring arguments
  • evaluating the strength of evidence
  • identifying faulty reasoning.

Primary aged students are encouraged to develop their community of inquiry skills by building on each other’s ideas, asking each other well-thought-out questions and challenging each other’s arguments.

To read a short description of each topic included in Stage 2 (Y3-4) and Stage 3 (Y5-6), click on these buttons.

STAGE TWO – YEARS 3 AND 4

STAGE THREE – YEARS 5 AND 6

Early Secondary: Years 7 – 8

Ethics classes for high school students focus on the development of critical thinking, respectful discussion, reasoning and the ability to make balanced decisions about ethical issues.

Contemporary issues, case studies and scenarios prompt students to discuss ethical issues such as:

  • is it okay for adults to control the lives of children and teenagers?
  • has our society responded ethically to the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • what responsibilities do we have to protect and preserve both the environment and our culture?
  • are there some types of people who often aren’t listened to or taken seriously – and is this a problem?
  • what makes a good apology – and do you have to forgive someone who apologises?

Skills-based topics have been replaced in high school with the integrated teaching of ‘discussion moves’ – moves students can make as part of a philosophical discussion. These moves include:

  • giving examples and counter-examples
  • working out what follows from a line of reasoning
  • checking that we each understand what the other is saying.

These moves give students insight into the different ways they can contribute to a discussion and help them to further develop their skills in ethical reasoning, critical thinking and collaborative inquiry.

Dr Sue Knight – Foundational Curriculum Author

Dr Knight holds a PhD in Philosophy and a Bachelor of Education from the University of Adelaide and spent more than 20 years researching and teaching within the University of South Australia’s School of Education. Dr Knight was the foundational author of the Primary Ethics curriculum, with topics crafted for each stage of primary education.  Read more