The International Philosophy Olympiad (IPO) is an annual philosophy competition for high school students from around the world, one of the International Science Olympiads. It is organized under the auspices of the International Federation of Philosophical Societies (FISP) and supported by UNESCO.
The International Philosophy Olympiad was founded through an initiative by Ivan Kolev from Sofia University in Bulgaria. The idea was to help replace the Marxist–Leninist subjects taught in schools throughout Eastern Europe between 1947 and 1990. The first Olympiad was held in 1993 in Smolyan, Bulgaria, with three participating countries: Bulgaria, Romania (led by Elena Florina Otet), and Turkey (led by Nuran Direk). The second edition of the Olympiad, in 1994 in Petrich, Bulgaria, two additional countries joined: Poland (led by Władysław Krajewski) and Germany (led by Gerd Gerhardt). Together with Hungary (led by Katalin Havas) these countries founded the IPO. The IPO received welcome by UNESCO. Since 2001 the International Philosophy Olympiads have been organized under the auspices of International Federation of Philosophical Societies (FISP) and with the recognition and support of UNESCO.
In 2009 the number of participating countries rose from under 30 to about 40. The IPO 2020 originally scheduled to be held in Lisbon had to be cancelled because of measures against the COVID-19 pandemic. An electronic IPO (e-IPO) is organized by Slovenia.
According to the regulations, the objectives of the IPO are the following:
- to promote philosophical education at the secondary school level and increase the interest of high school pupils in philosophy;
- to encourage the development of national, regional, and local contests in philosophy among pre-university students worldwide;
- to contribute to the development of critical, inquisitive and creative thinking;
- to promote philosophical reflection on science, art, and social life;
- to cultivate the capacity for ethical reflection on the problems of the modern world; and,
- by encouraging intellectual exchanges and securing opportunities for personal contacts between young people from different countries, to promote the culture of peace.
The IPO is run by the following bodies: the International Committee, consisting of the delegation leaders having already organized an IPO, the Steering Board, consisting of members from the FISP, UNESCO and the International Committee, the National Organizing Committee, and the International Jury, consisting of all delegation leaders and teachers.
Students competing in the Olympiad are given four hours to write a philosophical essay on one of four topics given. The topics are provided in the four official languages of the IPO – English, Spanish, French, and German – and the student must choose to write in a language other than his/her own; that is, a native French speaker would not be allowed to write in French.
There are five criteria of evaluation.
- Relevance to the topic
- Philosophical understanding of the topic
- Power of argumentation
Evaluation proceeds in three stages:
- International Jury composed of teachers from different delegations form groups of about 4–5 to read certain number of the essays. Each member of a group reads the same 5-6 essays, then compares notes with other members of the same group and gives his mark/score on a scale of 10. Those above average score of 7.0 from being thus read make it to the next level. No teacher is allowed to read the essay of a student from his/her own country.
- About four members of the International Jury then individually reads those essays which are according to the criteria below:
- Those getting average 7.0 or above in previous stage
- Those having a difference in marking by two jury members of more than 3.0 point
- Those finally making a new average of 7.0 or above are recommended by the international jury to the steering board with five members from the FISP and the international committee. Each person in this board reads each essay individually. The steering board then decides the medals and honorable mentions to be given. They need not accept the ranking of essays as given by the international jury.
National selection processes
According to the regulations, the selection of the candidates participating for a particular country are chosen through a selection process which should be organized or be under the auspices of a national philosophical organization member of the FISP. The precise structure of the national competition varies from country to country.
Austria first took part in the IPO in 2005. Since then they have two stages. In the first stage, every bundesland (state) sends the best two or three participants of the Landeswettbewerb to the philosophical akademie. There the second stage takes place and in this Bundeswettbewerb the two best will be sent to the IPO. The first Austrian participant were part of the German delegation in 2004.
The Czech Republic's philosophical competition for high school students was established by Tomáš Nejeschleba at the Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts, Palacký University in Olomouc in 2011. Since 2012, the competition, called Nebojme se myslet, consists of two stages. In the first stage, students write an essay on one of four topics in Czech. The criteria are the same as in the IPO: relevance to the topic, philosophical understanding of the topic, coherence, power of argumentation, originality. The twenty best essays are qualified for the second stage in which students write a short essay in one of the four official IPO languages. The two best students qualify for the IPO. Since 2014, Jan Čížek from Palacký University has been the main organizer of the Czech philosophical competition. He is also the leader of the Czech delegation at the IPO.
In Estonia, the selection process, which was initiated by philosopher Leo Luks, consists of two stages. In the first stage, students write an essay at home in their mother tongue. This means that Russian for the country's Russian minority is also accepted. The national jury (5 members) chooses the 10 best essays for the next stage. In the second round (4 days long), finalists first spend two days together where they participate in different lectures and workshops. After that, the final competition begins, which consists of four different parts:
- 4-hour essay in foreign language, as it is in IPO (maximum 50 points)
- Test of informal logic (10 points)
- Test of central philosophical notions and theories (10 points)
- Oral 1 to 1 debate on philosophical issue (10 points)
The two best students represent the country at the IPO.
In Germany, there are three stages:
- The best two or three essays of a class (written in German) are sent to the jury (until December, 6th); the good essays will be honoured by a certificate.
- The best 26 essay-writers are invited to Münster for four days in February, where they write again an essay (in English or French) and hear and discuss two philosophy lectures.
- The two best essay-writers in Münster represent the country at the IPO in May.
The IPO selection procedure in Hungary is closely related to and based on the National Students Competition in philosophy, which is embedded in a wide range of National high-school competitions organized under the auspices of the Ministry of Education. All the competitions (mathematics, etc.) are organized in 3 levels, over January - April. The competitions in philosophy involve 11th and mainly 12th grade students, altogether approx. 300 students nationwide. The first, school-level round is based on testing knowledge in history of philosophy (thus emphasizing the relevance of the curricula and maturity criteria). Students with sufficient score are eligible to enter the 2nd round. The second round is about writing an essay, students are free to select one topic out of four. The best papers are selected by a jury of Academics, which consists of Faculty staff members invited by the ME, who will invite the students to the finals, i.e. an oral examination. Hungarian is the only official language all through the national competition levels. The IPO Selection invites the best 30 students after the 2nd round. Under the supervision of the Hungarian Philosophical Society, a new Jury are being invited who will propose the 4 quotations, and they should evaluate all the papers. Students will take part at the IPO selection where all the IPO rules and regulations are respected: essay-writing, bi-lingual dictionary, timing, evaluation criteria, languages, etc. Usually approx. 15 students take part at the IPO selection and the authors of best 2 papers are proposed to participate at the IPO. Students receive assistance from their teachers to participate at the competitions, however the Philosophical Youth Camps and the „Philosophical tea-house” movement (inspired by IPO colleagues in Turkey) may also help students to gain and deepen their interest in philosophy.
The Olympiad is non-funded and thus a totally voluntary effort for both the teachers and students. The selection process, which is organized by Kedar Soni, is in two stages:
- Abhinav Philosopher - objective and subjective tasks online to primarily gauge students logical and verbal reasoning. Held around beginning of December by Abhinav Vidyalay. (school which coordinates the process) Top 20% are selected to the next stage.
- Indian Philosophy Olympiad - Essay round similar in format to the IPO competition. It is held online around January in a time-bound manner.
The two best from the stage 2 represent the country, provided they can fund themselves. Then the training program is held for a couple of weeks, to orient students to systematic philosophy and argumentation. It runs for about 12 hours a day and students need to be accommodated at the venue. Those clearing stage 1 are also invited in order to prepare them for next IPO. After the program, until the IPO, students meet 2-3 times weekly for about 3–4 hours in an online lecture room (video + whiteboard) to discuss essay topics and their arguments.
According to Kedar Soni, the IPO's internal politicking has caused him to discontinue organising India's IPO selection.
In 2005, the first year of Norway participating in the IPO, Thor Steinar Grødal just picked his two best philosophy students at Foss high school, in 2006 he and Olav Birkeland picked one each as Foss High School and Oslo Handelsgymnasium were the only ones in Oslo and possibly in the whole of Norway that offered a philosophy course for high school students. Since 2007 a new subject 'history&philosophy' (5 lessons per week in 2nd and 3rd grade) has been introduced to many high schools in Norway, and the selection process for IPO has been tied up to the Baltic Sea Philosophy Essay Competition. 100 Norwegian students from 14 schools participated in this competition in November 2011. In 2012 there was for the first time a 2nd round in Oslo March 23–24 for the 10 best Norwegian participants. These ten went to IPO Oslo 2012 on the extended quota of the host country.
The selection process was initiated in 2005 by Jonas Pfister, and 2006 was the first year Switzerland participated in the IPO. The selection process is organized by the association SwissPhilO, the president of which is Lara Gafner, a former IPO participant for Switzerland. From 2005 to 2012, the selection process consisted of two stages, a first round and a second round. Since 2013 the selection process consists of three stages. At the first stage, students write an essay at school or at home. Out of these, the authors of the best essays are invited to a second round, a semi-final, where they participate in workshops and write a second essay in their mother tongue, that is German or French. Again, the authors of the best essays qualify for the next round, the national final, where the students again participate in workshops and write another essay. A jury of five members selects the two best who will represent the country at the IPO.
The United States participated in IPO competitions four times until 2003. In 2001, the IPO was hosted by the US in Philadelphia. From 2003 until 2011, however, the US did not participate. At the 2009 December conference meeting of the American Philosophical Association (APA), Eastern Division teacher Joseph A. Murphy met with APA executive director, David Schrader, and told him about the curriculum for a course 'A History of Western Philosophy' taught in Spanish for American high school students in their last two years before university. Over the next year, the course was approved by the Curriculum Committee at Dwight-Englewood School (D-E). David Schrader and William McBride had been discussing ways to reanimate the US philosophy community to re-enter the IPO competitions. Adding Spanish as an official IPO language was seen to be a possible key to doing this. Spanish was added to English, French and German on a trial basis before IPO Vienna 2011. In order to participate in IPO Vienna 2011, Murphy chose two of his best philosophy students who also studied Spanish at D-E. Together they formed the 2011 US Delegation with the blessing of APA. Since then, there has been a national competition for high school students called the American Philosophy Olympiad, in which high school students from around the nation submit philosophy essays in either Spanish, French, or German in response to a given prompt. The two top essays are chosen, and those two students represent the United States at the IPO.
Overview of competitions
|10||2002||Tokyo||Japan||May 12||May 16||15|
|11||2003||Buenos Aires||Argentina||May 7||May 10||18|
|12||2004||Seoul||South Korea||May 19||May 23||17|
|13||2005||Warsaw||Poland||May 19||May 23||18|
|14||2006||Cosenza||Italy||May 13||May 18||15|
|15||2007||Antalya||Turkey||May 18||May 21||22|
|16||2008||Iaşi||Romania||May 18||May 22||23|
|17||2009||Helsinki||Finland||May 22||May 26||22|
|18||2010||Athens||Greece||May 20||May 24||23|
|19||2011||Vienna||Austria||Power and Powerlessness of Philosophy||May 26||May 29||28|
|20||2012||Oslo||Norway||Limits of Freedom||May 16||May 20||39|
|21||2013||Odense||Denmark||Kierkegaard Today||May 16||May 20||37|
|22||2014||Vilnius||Lithuania||Emmanuel Levinas: Infinity and the Face of the Other||May 15||May 16||40|
|23||2015||Tartu||Estonia||Disagreement||May 14||May 18||40|
|24||2016||Ghent||Belgium||War and Peace||May 12||May 15||44|
|25||2017||Rotterdam||Netherlands||Tolerance||May 25||May 28||45|
|26||2018||Bar||Montenegro||Environment||May 23||May 28||50|
|27||2019||Rome||Italy||Cultural Heritage and Citizenship||May 16||May 19||50|
|28||2020||Ljubliana||Slovenia||Global Solidarity||May 28||May 31||organized as online competition (eIPO)|
|29||2021||Ljubliana||Slovenia||Utopie||May 27||May 30||organized as online competition (eIPO)|
|30||2022||Lisbon||Portugal||Identity and Person||May 26||May 29||Originally planned for 2020 and then cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and reported to 2022[a]|
|31||2023||Olympia||Greece||A Life in Fair Competition||May 11||May 14|
Overview of Awards
|Year||Location||Gold medal||Silver medal||Bronze medal||Honourable mention|
|1995||Stara Zagora, Bulgaria|
|2000||Münster, Germany||Ognyan Kassabov BGR
||Gianluca Rossi ITA
||Boris Popivanov BGR
|2001||Philadelphia, EE. UU.||Ute Scholl DEU
||Laura Lapierre VEN
||Felix von Lehmden DEU
|2002||Tokyo, Japan||Silvia Crupano ITA
||Vasilescu Ion Gheorghe ROU
||Akse Pettersson FIN
|2003||Buenos Aires, Argentina||Torsten Schoeneberg DEU
||Sergio Barberis ARG
||Gabriel Abelof ARG
||Sarah Helduser DEU |
|2004||Seoul, ROK||Leopold Hess POL
||Joanna Kusiak POL
||Seungwon Chang ROK
|2005||Warsaw, Poland||Mikolaj Ratajczak POL
||Marta Sznajder POL
||David Himler AUT
||Roberta Di Nanni ITA |
|2006||Cosenza, Italy||Efe Murat Balikcioglu TUR
||Mateusz Chaberski POL
||Saila Kakko FIN
||Johann Alexander DEU |
Santiago Auat ARG
|2007||Antalya, Turkey||Zeynep Pamuk TUR||Daria Cybulska POL
Stefan Stefanovic SRB
|Alexander Johann DEU
||Elena Alexandra Corbu ROU|
Matthias Hoernes AUT
|2008||Iași, Romania||Jan Seidel DEU
||Conrad Krausche CHE||Arina Cristina Baibarac ROU
||Perczel János HUN|
Vallari Sawant IND
|2009||Helsinki, Finland||Sarri Nironen FIN
||Eliza Tymianska POL
Petar Penev BGR
|Kristina Kashfullina RUS
Luiza Pasca ROU
|Hyun-Kyu Kim ROK|
|2010||Athens, Greece||Aljaž Jelenko SVN||Kacper Kowalczyk POL
Jaehyun Yoo ROK
|Tibor Backhausz HUN
||Erik Ramberg NOR|
Ignas Rubikas LTU
|2011||Vienna, Austria||Nikolaj Møller DNK||Chang Hyun Choi ROK
José Gusmão Rodrigues PRT
|Niklas Plaetzer DEU
||Mustafa Ayçiçegi TUR |
Tibor Backhausz HUN
|2012||Oslo, Norway||Sarah Yoon ROK
Tadas Kriščiūnas LTU
|Jeff Granhøj DNK
||Niklas Plaetzer DEU
||Kasper Siim Viftrup DNK|
Vaclav Masek Sánchez GTM
|2013||Odense, Denmark||Róbert Palasik HUN
||Theo Anders AUT
||Petra Požgaj HRV
||Juan Nigri ARG|
Esteban van Volcem BEL
|2014||Vilnius, Lithuania||Vulpe Dan Cristian ROU
||Jacob Karlsson Lagerros SWE
||Benedikt Zöchling AUT
||Federico Aguilar GTM|
|2015||Tartu, Estonia||Iván György Merker HUN
Antti Autio FIN
|Chagajeg Soloukey Tbalvandany NLD
||Ludovico Machet ITA
||Ivona Janjic SRB|
Antonina Jamrozik POL
|2016||Ghent, Belgium||Ihsan Baris Gedizlioglu TUR
||Hana Samaržija HRV
||Fabian Strobel DEU
||Liwia Rogalewicz POL|
Anna Morandini AUT
|2017||Rotterdam, Netherlands||Mor Divshi ISR
||Mihnea Bâlici ROU
||Crista Erales GTM
||Karolina Bassa POL|
Tathagat Bhatia IND
|2018||Bar, Montenegro||Radka Pallová CZE
||Yastika Guru IND
||Martina Fridl SVN
||Luis Anngel Meza-Chavarría CRI|
Monique Murer BRA
|2019||Rome, Italy||Viktor Mršić HRV
Kseniia Korotenko RUS
|Yanying Lin CHN
||Noam Furman ISR
|2020||Ljubljana, Slovenia||Aybars Önder TUR
Wang Dingzheng SGP
|Jiayi Ren SGP
||Blaž Sušnik SVN
||Anastasios Tsirigotis GRC
Berkant Isaev BGR
|2021||Ljubljana, Slovenia||Andrej Jovićević SRB
Luiz Felipe Horta BRA
|Jonathan Platzbecker DEU
||Yared Alemán CRI
||Adian Roman FIN
Ajna Ćuhara BIH
|2022||Lisbon, Portugal||Giulia Pession ITA
Tobias Willée GER
|Aleksandro Savova BUL
||Patrick Seyfried GER
||Aino Satu Kujari FIN|
Ana Ribeiro POR
- The 28th IPO was originally scheduled to be held from May 21 to 24, 2020.
- Moufida Goucha, Philosophie. Une école de la liberté, Paris: UNESCO, 2007, p. 89.
- Ivan Kolev (2016), International Philosophy Olympiad. In: Peters M. (eds) Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory. Springer, Singapore, p. 1159.
- UNESCO, “Conclusions of the International Study Days: Philosophy and Democracy in the World”, 15–16 February 1995.
- "International Philosophy Olympiad » Statute".
- Hruška, Tomáš. "Katedra filozofie".
- "Projekt - Nebojme se myslet".
- https://www.teaduskool.ut.ee/sites/default/files/teaduskool/olympiaad/eesti/fio_2020_21_juhend_uus.pdf[bare URL PDF]
- "Why am I shutting down the Indian Philosophy Olympiad?".
- "History". International Philosophy Olympiad. Archived from the original on March 27, 2020. Retrieved March 27, 2020.
- "International Philosophy Olympiad 2019". ipo2019.sfi.it. Archived from the original on December 3, 2019. Retrieved March 27, 2020.
- "IPO 2020". 2020 International Philosophy Olympiad. Archived from the original on March 27, 2020. Retrieved March 27, 2020.
- IPO 2010 webpage
- IPO 2011 webpage with award list
- IPO 2012 webpage with list of awards and essays
- IPO 2013 Webpage
- IPO 2014 Webpage
- IPO 2015 Webpage
- IPO 2016 Webpage
- IPO 2017 webpage
- IPO 2018 webpage
- IPO 2019 webpage
- eIPO 2020 webpage
- eIPO 2021 webpage
- IPO 2022 webpage
- Jonas Pfister, "Les Olympiades de philosophie dans l'enseignement" (2009), Diotime. Revue internationale de didactique de la philosophie, 41 (07/2009). Online
- Juha Savolainen, Pekka Elo, Satu Honkala, Rebecca Cingi (Hrsg.) (2010), IPO Helsinki Finland 2009, Publications of The Finnish National Commission for UNESCO no 85, 2010.
- Moris Polanco (2015), Cómo escribir un ensayo de filosofía: Con especial referencia a la Olimpiada Internacional de Filosofía. Create Space. Independent Publishing Platform.
- Ivan Kolev (2016), International Philosophy Olympiad. In: Peters M. (eds) Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory. Springer, Singapore, 1158–1164.
- Frank Murphy (2017), "International Philosophy Olympiad: A Writing Challenge for Young Philosophers. With an Appendix: How To Write a Philosophy Essay. A Guide for IPO Contestants", Journal of Didactics of Philosophy, Vol. 1, 2017, 49–66.