The Danish Free School Tradition
— a Lesson in Democracy
Curlew – 40 pages – Illustrated – rrp £ 4–95
ISBN 1 900259 98 2
In recent years a number of so–called "free schools" have been established in England. Their introduction, championed by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition that came to power in the UK in 2010, has been controversial.
Their supporters have often quoted the success of free schools in other countries, especially in Scandinavia. However the Danish origins of the free school movement have been misunderstood, and frequently misrepresented, in Britain, not least because they do not fit well with the current political agenda.
Unlike their English counterparts, the free schools in Denmark have their roots firmly planted in a genuinely popular local democracy that is entirely different to the free market, yet strangely centrist, approach of the current British government.
In the academic year 1989–1990 I taught English at several local authority schools in Denmark. Whilst there I also had the opportunity of visiting a number of free schools and folk high schools. Ten years later, at a conference on Freedom in Education held at Askov Folk High School in Jutland, I was asked to write some articles about Danish education for Human Scale Education News. Those articles eventually became this booklet.
Denmark has moved on since I worked and studied there. The economic and social integration of Denmark with the rest of Europe has brought about changes that many Danes fear have undermined the country's long–standing democratic, communitarian and liberal traditions. Nevertheless, the example of their education system still has lessons for the rest of us.
The Danish Free School Tradition – a lesson in democracy is intended as a contribution to an ongoing debate about how we might educate children for life in a genuinely democratic society.
or you can order it from your local bookshop, quoting ISBN 1 900259 98 2;
or, if you really want to annoy the bankers, you can send me a good old–fashioned cheque for £5 (see the Contact page of this site for my address).
- Chapters include –
- Introduction – download as pdf
- The Folkeskole – the local authority comprehensive
- The Friskole – the grass-roots alternative
- The Efterskole – a year away from home
- The Folkehøjskole – a residential community of adult learners
- The Origins of Freedom in Education – historical and social roots
- Grundtvig and Kold – giving voice to inspiration
- Minority Rights in Denmark – and the principles of national and individual self-determination
- Examples of the various types of school