Eventos Académicos, 39 ISCHE. Educación y emancipación

Tamaño de fuente: 
Grundtvigian concept of “School for Life” and folk high schools. On the history of emancipation of peasantry in the countries around the Baltic Sea till mid-20th century
Tomasz Maliszewski

Última modificación: 2017-07-17


Along with gradual civilization development since the Enlightenment and the ideas of the French Revolution in many European societies there also appeared calls for popular and mass education. At the beginning, they referred to elementary education (folk school), which - starting in Denmark (1814) – started to be given legal grounds with provisions on obligatory school education for everybody. Soon the modernization processes started to include the concept of secondary education, but for a long time it remained an elite school, not available for residents of rural areas. Those processes, at various pace, could also be seen in the societies living around the Baltic Sea.

However, the was one social class that, despite a gradual increase of its political power and economic position, could not go to secondary schools.  It was peasants who made their living on working on farms.  And it was for them that in the 1830s the Danish thinker N.F.S. Grundtvig offered a new education formula based on his concept of “School for Life”. This sort of andragogic experiment adopted the name of Folk High School (Danish: folkehøjskole) and soon became fairly popular – first in Denmark itself and in Scandinavia, and after a few decades also on the other side of the Baltic Sea. Folk High Schools became an instrument of emancipation of peasantry in those societies – giving the residents of rural areas not only modern expertise on agriculture but, first of all, modern civic competences and a possibility of introducing the elements of their own culture into the general national culture in individual countries.

The paper is to show the role of Folk High Schools in building civic societies and social capital of local communities in the countries around the Baltic Sea till mid-20th century – with special emphasis on the similarities and differences between individual countries. Additionally, it is also an attempt to find in those activities an inspiration for the development or/and redevelopment of Folk High Scholl movement in individual countries nowadays.

The following are the main research problems:

- What role did Folk High Schools play in political, cultural and economic emancipation of peasantry in individual societies living around the Baltic Sea?

- What similarities and differences can be seen in the role and significance of the educational institution of Folk High School type in building subjectivity of the residents of rural areas in Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Sweden, Finland), Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) and in Poland till mid-20th century?

- If and to what an extent could the experience of Folk High Schools from years ago be used to strengthen civic awareness / sustainable development / social capital of the local communities in the countries around the Baltic Sea nowadays?

The paper has a character of a monographic handling the title issue. A set of research techniques proper for monographies (in particular: critical analysis of sources and the literature of the subject) and – supportively – the techniques applied in historical and pedagogical/andragogic comparative studies (in particular: comparative analysis) was used.

Folk High Schools for years have been the interest of historians of education, historians of social life, andragogy experts, pedagogues and other representatives of social sciences in the countries where Folk High Schools operated in the past. The expertise on their history in the Baltic countries is already so extensive that, based on past research one can and should undertake studies of international character, referring to comparison of experience from different countries. Thanks to such new attempts of showing the phenomenon the history and real impact of Grundtvigian “School for Life” and Folk High Schools on the residents of rural areas of the societies around the Baltic Sea can become more complete. So, it is worth looking closer at those educational institutions and the emancipation processes they affected.