Grundtvig and Kold

The Free School tradition has its origins in the thinking of the great Danisk thinker, clergyman, poet and politician, N.F.S. Grundtvig (1783-1872), whose ideas were realised in practice by the teacher Christen Kold (1816-1870).

The result was a view of education and child development that was way ahead of its time and which continues to form the basis for Free School thinking.

On the basis of their ideas about “a school for life based on the living word”, the first Højskoleor “folk high school” for adults was founded in 1844 and the first Friskole or “free school” for children in 1852. These were followed in 1879 by the creation of Efterskoler, boarding schools where teenagers spend a year before typically going on to  Gymnasium  or sixth form. These schools were in particular designed to serve the rural population. It is important to bear in mind that there are three distinct forms of Free School.

The ideas of Grundtvig and Kold had such an impact on the political thinking of their time that they were written into the democratic Constitution adopted by Denmark in 1915. It stipulates compulsory eduction for all – not compulsory school attendance.