When Grundtvig turned 70 years in 1853, he got money
as a present from public collection. He used the present to build the
first Grundtvig folk highschool, hed called it Marielyst after his
second wife, Marie Toft. In 1856 the school opened, it was placed in
the country outside Copen- hagens rampart, which today is called Noerrebro.
It is hard to imagine Denmark without folk high schools. Through more
than 150 years we have got used to the fact that the folk high schools
are part of our daily life. They are part of the Danish cultural inheritance
and have helped to place us on the world map.
The idea of folk high schools is however not just history. There are
still rich possibilities for development in connection with the surrounding
world. Also when it comes to the high information technology society.
A stay at a folk high school is useful to have in your luggage on your
journey towards the future.
The Danish folk high school started more than 150 years ago in Roedding,
Southern Jutland. By this a form of school was born, which has caused
attention throughout the World. Why is that?
There are probably many good explanations, but mainly it is due to
the importance this form af school, had on the Danish democracy, where
the dialogue is the turning point.
The background for the first folk high schools was the thoughts of
Grundtvig to bring encouragement and enlightenment to the peasants
to enable them to participate in the democratic gatherings and the
technological development of agriculture.
The first students at the folk high schools were people with just
a few years of schooling and they came in order to get better qualifications
in the basic subjects. The vocational skills were also very important
at that time, and the high schools knew that if the students should
achieve their goals, it was just as important that they achieved spiritural
independence and frankness. Otherwise they would not succeed with their
studies at the folk high schools.
"Encouragement first, then enlightenment" said Christen
Kold, who was one of the first and most famous founders of folk high
schools. "You have to have the wish to study, if it shall be of
From the very beginning the schools were as we know them today: an
independent and free school and a bording school with a touch of home,
where students and teachers live closely together. Most important is
the dialogue between teacher and student, among students and among
Many of the folk high schools had a religious touch during the first
100 years, and among others an evangelical wing of the church of Denmark
had their own folk high schools.
Beginning with the industrial development around 1870 society turned
into new directions. Workers in the growing towns faced the same problems
as the peasants had faced a generation ago, and the labour movement
soon started their own folk high schools.
Since 1920 several gymnastics- and sports folk high schools have be
founded, and these school forms are an important part of the folk high
schools. Also they have attracted many young people during the last
Today basic subjects are not that important at the folk high schools.
Subjects as music, art, theatre, dance and sports have moved forward.
Within the folk high school these subjects can give the students a
better understanding of life and encourage them to social activities.
Each generation find their subjects and way of teaching.
At the time of Grundtvig mainly peasants and smallholders had an uncovered
need for learning. In the future the students at the folk high schools
come from all parts of our society, people who cannot adjust to life
today and who cannot participate in the changes of society. At the
folk high schools all kinds of people with different backgrounds meet.
Therefore we will need a Denmark with folk high schools also in the