Folk Highschools

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 any importance".

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 teachers.

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 decades.

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 future.