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The practice of philosophy in Geneva

In Geneva, the history of the practice of philosophy began with a teacher at the Ecole Active de Malagnou, Paule Watteau. She had managed to get hold of equipment from Matthew Lipman (then unknown in Geneva) and she led philosophy workshops with her 9-year-old students. At the time, she was the only one to do this.

 

Film "La pratique de la philosophie avec les enfants" (Ecole Active de Malagnou)

Then, following a lecture given by Michel Sasseville in 1998 in Lausanne, a group of people gathered to create an association whose mandate was to promote the practice of philosophical dialogue. The ProPhilo association was born and Paule Watteau was President for several years. The work of these volunteers consisted of some training with Michel Sasseville plus the distribution of educational materials. The ProPhilo association now offers various services: training, coaching, philosophical dialogue practice, philosophical foundations courses, exchange of practice, etc. (www.prophilo.ch)

A partnership between proPhilo and the IFP in the early 2000s made the practice of philosophical dialogue more accessible to teachers of private schools in Geneva. Very soon many of them wished to incorporate this practice into their teaching. So far, a dozen private schools in Geneva have regularly practiced philosophy with their students for several years. Some of them offer philosophical workshops to students across the curriculum.

In 2005, Paule Watteau was contacted by the DIP to offer a course on philosophy in the classroom to the Department of Further Education. Some teachers in the state primary schools were introduced for the first time to the idea of teaching philosophy to children. Following the death of Ms. Watteau in 2007, the course was taken over by Alexandre Herriger in 2008. It is still in the training catalogue and every year several institutions apply for training in philosophical dialogue. Today, Mr Herriger has responded to more than 20 requests for training in State primary schools and he is currently working with 3 State secondary schools in which the practice of philosophy is integrated into the curriculum.