Eventos Académicos, 39 ISCHE. Educación y emancipación

Tamaño de fuente: 
Adult Education in Spain before Emancipatory Learning Theories (1876-1931)
Luís Beserra Paiva, Carlos Bauer

Última modificación: 2017-07-17


Although the concept of emancipation began to integrate the educational debate and to influence curricular practices in the 1960s, it is possible to look at adult education from that perspective in an earlier period. This paper arises as a need to reflect on the relationship between Adult Education and Emancipation in Spain during a significant period of our History of Education.

This paper intends to analyze the public adult education policies developed in Spain from 1876 to 1931. These policies tried to mitigate any possible emancipatory concern of the working class, offering them the bourgeois model of popular education focused on having "educated and patriotic citizens, who knew the laws and respected them, the private property and the neighbor "(Regulation of adult classes, October 4th 1906).

From 1876 to 1931 different educational initiatives arose to promote adult education: On the one hand, it is possible to find proposals from the Labour movements (anarchism and socialism) that aimed to develop  the socio-political awareness in order to promote vindicatory and revolutionary actions that could lead to emancipation; on the other hand, to count these movements arose the so-called Catholic Worker movement under the Rerum Novarum Encyclical (1891) that  advocated for a workers' education based on the principles of this religion. The Catholic proposals and those that came from the reformism liberal bourgeoisie tried to improve both education and living conditions of the working class keeping the social structure established by the liberal governments.

The education Law of 1857 included special adult schools but they had had a scarce development. Later, the Decree of October 26th, 1900 replaced them by night courses taught by primary school teachers. Both institutions will be depicted analyzing their similarities and differences in organization, teachers, students, aims and curriculum. The neglect of women education by all these indicatives will be underlined. To deal with this subject, we have focused on the examination and interpretation of primary sources (legislative and normative documents and archives documentation, mainly teacher’s correspondence and inspectors reports from Málaga public archives) where the public adult schools were described.

Although emancipatory education should overcome knowledge transmission, this idea did not appear obviously in the Spanish adult education during this period. Nevertheless, learning to read and write is just a first step, something scarce but essential to begin learning and to continue further learning. Emancipation could be seen here as an individual process rather than a political one. The rates of illiteracy in 1900, 59 % in Spain and 75 % in Málaga tell us about the deficiencies of the education system and about the scarce efficacy of the tools used to improve primary and adult education. Under these circumstances every proposal to improve adult education, even those with so many limitations, with so low aspirations and with so many deficiencies, could be seen from that perspective.