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I Actes du Séminaire International Freinet de Londres I
I Freinet dans (?) le "système" éducatif (?) français ? I
Le mouvement Freinet : passé et présent
Gerald SCHLEMMINGER - History of Freinet Pedagogy
Liliane MAURY – Freinet and Wallon : on the Part Played by Psychology in School

La coopération à l’école : des questions pratiques…donc théoriques
Marine BARO – A l’école choisissons le plaisir d’apprendre avec les autres, de vivre ensemble et de se construire, dans la classe coopérative
Samia CHARMI – L’Auto-ECOLE de Saint-Denis
John SIVELL – Freinet on Practical Classrom Organization

Éducation, civilité, citoyenneté
Hugh STARKEY – Freinet and Citizenship Education
Jacques PAIN -  Des initiatives dans la classe pour réduire la violence à l’école : la pédagogie institutionnelle

La dimension internationale : présence et absence de Freinet
Nicholas BEATTIE – Freinet and the Anglo-Saxons
William B. LEE – The Ecole Moderne, an International Movement. What are the Ingredients for Successful Export ?
Tsunéo FURUSAWA – Pourquoi les enseignants du Japon ont-ils accueilli la pédagogie Freinet ?

De l’école primaire à l’université
Roger AUFFRAND – Freinet dans (?) le système « éducatif » ( ?) français
David CLANFIELD – Using Freinet Pedagogy in a University Environment : Challenges, Frustrations and Happy Outcomes


Gerald SCHLEMMINGER, University of Paris XI

The centenary of the birth of Célestin Freinet (1896-1966) provides a fitting occasion to remember the principal features of his pedagogy. It is also an appropriate moment to question the myths created by his followers and to re-situate Freinet within the European New Education movement ("L’Education Nouvelle"). This article first appeared in French preceding a bibliography of recent publications in English, German and French and a list of international contacts.

1.  Freinet Techniques
Célestin Freinet was born on October 16, 1896 in Gars, a small French village close to the Italian border. Unable to finance his secondary school studies, Freinet graduated with a school-leaving certificate from a junior high school. With this certificate he could go on to qualify as an elementary school teacher but was not eligible for admission to a university. At the age of 18, however, Freinet was called up for the army during the First World War. Within three years he had been seriously wounded at the front. A lengthy convalescence meant that Freinet did not start his career as a teacher until 1921 in Le Bar-sur-Loup, a little village in the coastal Alps near the Mediterranean.
Freinet joined the anarcho-syndicalist teachers' union of the time, where he was an activist in the opposition associated with the communist party. It was probably at the urging of his wife Elise that he became a member of the French Communist Party in 1927.
His publications constitute a radical critique of the traditional state education system. Freinet’s approach was not only theoretical and political but also very practical since he integrated his ideas into his daily work in the classroom.
In October 1924 Freinet introduced the technique of Learning Printing Technique. This meant that the children used a printing press to reproduce texts that they had composed freely. The pupils wrote down their own personal adventures, the incidents that they had experienced inside and outside the classroom, and so on. Usually these texts were then presented to the class, discussed, corrected and edited by the class as a whole before being finally printed by the children themselves working together. Freinet called this approach Free Writing (Texte libre). Later these texts would be assembled to create a Class Journal (Livre de vie) and a School Newspaper (Journal scolaire).
From 1926 onwards, material produced by his class, particularly the School Newspapers, was regularly exchanged with other elementary school classes in France, whose teachers were also involved in innovative teaching. Freinet calls this the technique of School Correspondence (Correspondance scolaire). Later, this correspondence would spread throughout the world.
The French teachers who used Learner Printing, and others, who were beginning to make and use movies and sound recordings with their classes, came together in 1928 and founded the Public Educators’ Co-operative (Coopérative de l’Enseignement Laïc, C.E.L.), soon to be known as “Freinet Pedagogy” or the “Freinet Movement”. From 1932 they edited a magazine “The Proletarian Educator” (L’Educateur Prolétarien).
 Since the thirties, the Public Educators’ Co-operative has produced booklets based on pupils’ research projects as documents for classroom use by others, because these teachers considered traditional school-books to be old-fashioned, academic and out of touch with reality. This collection of booklets is called the Working Library (Bibliothèque de Travail) and can be added to the Class Library (Bibliothèque de classe) along with other documents, files and books.
But Freinet also encouraged children to conduct their own Field Investigations (sortie-enquête) and research. This meant that his pupils regularly left the classroom in order to observe and study both their natural environment and their local community. Back in the class, they presented their results, printed out texts, produced a journal and then sent all this material to their counterparts in other schools.
These opportunities for child-centred learning and independent enquiry are organized according to a Work Schedule (“Plan de travail”) in which the students set out their plan of work for a certain period. The Work Schedule is discussed and evaluated together with the teacher.

 Working Schedule used by the Freinet School in Vence (1960)

The Public Educators’ Co-operative also initiated Self-Correcting Files (Fichier autocorrectif) including hundreds of worksheets for such fundamental skills as grammar, spelling, maths, geography, history, etc. Pupils use these files individually according to their needs and whenever they want to improve their performance.
The overall co-ordination of class activities, and any problems affecting individual children or groups of children are regularly discussed and resolved in the Classroom Assembly (Réunion coopérative, Conseil) which consists of all the children in the class and the teacher.
Freinet’s philosophy of education upset the local school authorities of Saint-Paul (his second school) and they tried to have Célestin Freinet moved to another school-district. Freinet refused to be transferred and left the public education system. In 1935 he founded an independent school nearby in Vence. There, Freinet applied and developed his techniques until 1940, when he was sent to an internment camp by the Vichy Government as a political agitator. Later released on compassionate grounds (his weakened state was related to his war wound), he was placed under house arrest in the Alps, where he eventually joined the resistance movement in 1943.

2.  The Essential Concepts of Freinet Pedagogy
During his periods of detention at the time of the Second World War Freinet wrote his core works on pedagogy. The most important concepts are the following:
- Pedagogy of Work (Pédagogie du travail) - meaning that pupils learned by making useful products or providing useful services.
- Co-operative Learning (Travail coopératif) - based on co-operation in the productive process.
- Enquiry-based Learning (Tâtonnement expérimental) - trial and error method involving group work.
- The Natural Method (Méthode naturelle) - based on an inductive, global approach.
- Centres of Interest (Complexe d’intérêt) - based on children’s learning interests and curiosity.
Freinet’s school reopened in 1945 and his movement underwent a revival culminating in the founding of the Cooperative Institute of the Modern School (Institut Coopératif de l’Ecole Moderne - I.C.E.M.) in 1947 whose role is to develop ideas for pedagogical resources and activities. The tasks of the Public Educators’ Co-operative were then limited to the production of the actual pedagogical material such as the printing press and accessories, the Self-Correcting Files, the Working Library, etc.

3.  The Left Critique of Freinet Pedagogy: 1st Wave
Between 1950 and 1954, Freinet was vigorously attacked by intellectuals of the French Communist Party, who accused him of:
? promoting a notion of school based on an outmoded rural ideal,
? downplaying the role of the teacher,
? stressing process rather than content,
? exaggerating the importance of children’s spontaneous behaviour thereby reinforcing principles dear to bourgeois individualism.
In other words, the Communists criticized Freinet for creating illusions in teachers’ minds, encouraged to believe that they could change the realities of school life in a world dominated by capitalism. Closer scrutiny, however, now suggests that this conflict is better understood as a power struggle between the Freinet Movement and the Communist Party to gain the support of the unionized teachers.

In the 1960s Freinet dwelt mainly on programmed learning and the expansion of his pedagogy to secondary school level. He died in October 1966 and was buried in the little cemetery of Gars, his birthplace.

4.  The Freinet Myth and the Influence of the New Education movement
Freinet educators have subscribed to certain myths about Freinet, some of which were nourished by the accounts of his life written by Elise, his wife and lifelong partner. It is generally believed, for example that Freinet’s war wound lay at the root of his efforts to radically change his teaching methods. Since he was unable to keep speaking for very long, he had to invent Co-operative Learning and Child-Centred Techniques.
Some of his followers see him as a pedagogical genius who created all of his techniques out of thin air. The reality, of course is much more complex. Freinet must be seen in the context of the international New Education movement.
Here, for example, are some of the pedagogical practices that were already known before Freinet:
? School printing to reproduce pupils’ texts were used by several teachers in the 19th century (Dumas in Paris, 1730; Oberlin in the Vosges c. 1800 and Robin at Cempuis, c. 1900).
? Already in 1921 the Polish pedagogue Janus Korczak was using a School Newspaper as educational tool.

The pedagogical concepts which Freinet referred to and which he studied thoroughly are the following (brief summary):
? The Centres of Interest arose from a critical dispute between the Belgian psychologist Ovide Decroly and the U.S. philosopher John Dewey with his Project Method.
? Freinet’s Co-operative Learning techniques were partly inspired by the studies of Ovide Decroly and the Swiss psychologist Edouard Claparède.
? Enquiry-based Learning method was related to the Functional Pedagogy of Edouard Claparède and the Genetic Psychology of Jean Piaget (i.e. the construction of learning through experience).
? The Work Schedule is close to the Dalton-Plan developed by the U.S. teacher Helen Parkhust.
? Self-Correcting Files came about after an encounter with the Winnetka-method pioneered by U.S. school-inspector Carl Washburne. Indeed, the first maths files of the Freinet Movement are an adaptation of Washburne’s Self-Correcting maths programs.

Freinet’s pedagogical theory is not only based on the above mentioned practical techniques, but may also be seen in a larger philosophical and political context still, in the crucible of the New Education movement.

Pedagogy of Work
Freinet’s approach to Learning through Work may be contrasted with the concept of the German Georg Kerschensteiner, the Russian Pavel Petrovic Blonskij and the Swiss educator Adolphe Ferrière.
Kerschensteiner wanted to educate working-class children with manual work because he believed that a more abstract approach to learning would not fulfill the socially relevant virtues of behaviour and performance.
While Blonskij tried to integrate school into factories in order to enable children to deal with a modern industrial culture, Ferrière placed greater emphasis on a spiritual approach through which the child’s energies should be channelled and nourished.
Freinet’s concept of Learning through Work focuses on work as the process of spontaneous re-organization of life in school and society. According to him, work is the basis of every human activity, indeed of the very development of a human being. Therefore productive work is an ongoing principle of teaching and learning. While the children are developing their texts with the techniques of Learner Printing, and producing their journals, exhibitions, and so on, they are in a constant learning process. This concept also distinguishes Freinet from the proponents of creative pedagogy popular in the USA.

Co-operative Learning
Freinet’s emphasis on Co-operative Learning was rooted in his own experiences as a founder of agricultural co-operatives. He was also aware of British experiments with school communities. At the same time he participated in debates about the French organization called Central Office of School Co-operatives (Office central de la Coopérative scolaire à l’Ecole), founded by B. Profit in 1923, which still exists.

Natural Method
The Natural Method is a general learning theory based on the empirical tradition of sensation and association psychology in the 19th century. It is also influenced by German “Gestalt-Psychologie”. This method implies an intuitive and direct perception of the learning object, which activates the basic sensorial functions. Therefore, this deductive procedure allows us to integrate abstract notions. The Natural Method is applied to reading, writing, and basic maths. In this context, printing is an appropriate technique for a global as well as an analytical approach to the development of language.
The conclusion is that the real genius of Freinet lies not so much in the creation of the above techniques but in the synthesis and articulation of these various approaches and procedures. Most of the well-known educators of the New Movement wrote their most influential expository works between 1900 and 1930, and the foundation of their experimental schools dates back to the period before the First World War. Freinet was a late comer to the New Education scene. He founded his own school in 1935 and wrote his core works during the Second World War. However, the scientific epistemologist Thomas Kuhn believes that newcomers like Freinet, often have the opportunity to stimulate paradigm shifts and create new theories.
This may also explain why Freinet is less well-known than the major figures of the New Education Movement. He published his major works at a time when the impetus of New Education was slowing down.

Specialists of the New Education Paradigm

Born/Died Name  Ctry Main Works  Important Moments in Career
1854-1832  G. KERSCHENSTEINER Ger 1899-1920 Inspector: 1895
1859-1952 J. DEWEY USA 1900-1916 University professor 1884
1859-1909 F. FERRER Spain 1900-1912 School founded: 1901
1859-1933 B. OTTO Ger 1901-1914 School founded: 1906
1860-1923 H. GAUDIG Ger 1904-1923 University professor: 1923
1861-1925 R. STEINER Ger 1919-1924 School founded: 1919
1868-1919 H. LIETZ Ger 1911-1917 School founded: 1898
1870-1961 P. GEHEEB Ger  Schools founded: 1906-1910
1870-1952 M. MONTESSORI Italy 1910-1930 Children’s house: 1907
1871-1932 O. DECROLY Belg 1914-1930 Medical Institute: 1901
1873-1940 E. CLAPAREDE Switz 1909
1875-1961 G. WYNEKEN Ger 1913 School founded: 1910
1879-1960 A. FERRIERE Switz 1920-1928
1984-1952 P. PETERSEN Ger 1927 University professor: 1923
1888-1939 A. S. MAKARENKO USSR 1933-1935 Camp: 1920
1889-1968 C. WASHBURNE USA 1926-1932 School programs: 1925-30
1896-1966  C. FREINET France 1946-1950 School founded: 1935

 Specialists of other paradigms
1904-1990 B. F. SKINNER USA 1938-1957
1896-1980 J. PIAGET Switz 1947-1953
1879-1962 H. WALLON France 1934-1942
1984-1973 A. S. NEILL GB 1960-1970 School founded: 1921

A Child-Centred Pedagogy
The New Education has to be seen in the Romantic tradition of the philosophy of education. These educators recommended a return to the origins of childhood which is regarded as “innocent” and full of promise. The effort to adapt the child to modern, industrial society through school is essentially an act of corruption. Only “natural education” offers a way to resolve these problems by introducing community-based activities such as manual labour and craft work. They are considered as healthier and more formative.
Freinet’s pedagogy stands in this tradition when he praises manual work and puts children’s needs and desires above all. This concept stopped him from taking into account the studies on childhood which were realized in the 1920s, such as those discussed in the German review Zeitschrift für psychoanalytische Pädagogik (Review of Psychoanalytical Pedagogy). This apparent ignorance of new developments in educational thought led to a severe crisis within the Freinet Movement during the 1960s. On two separate occasions, in 1964 and 1966, Freinet expelled members of the Paris branch of his movement.

Nevertheless, Freinet’s commitment to a radical political philosophy meant that he did not drift into the reactionary tendencies that typified many of his contemporaries inside the New Education movement. From the beginning of his professional life, his main interest was always to improve the social and cultural situation of working-class children. Instead of waiting for a broader revolution he believed that changes are possible in the classroom right now.
Nowadays, Freinet pedagogy is still a very strong, international movement covering the whole range of school levels from kindergarten to university and adult education. The numerous celebrations of the centenary of Freinet’s birth bear eloquent testimony to the enduring relevance of his pedagogy in today’s troubled times.

 Actes du Séminaire International Freinet de Londres



1. Institut Cooperative de l’Ecole Moderne (I.C.E.M.)
 18, rue Sarazin
 F-44000 NANTES
 Tel.: 0033-, Fax: 0033-

2. Publications de l’Ecole moderne française (P.E.M.F.)
 Tel.: 0033-, Fax: 0033-
 Magazine: Le Nouvel Educateur

3. Secteur Langues / I.C.E.M.
 Département de Langues
 Bât. 336
 Université de Paris-Sud XI
 F-91405 ORSAY Cedex
 Tel.: 0033-, Fax: 0033-
 Magazine: Tracer

4. Pädagogik-Kooperative e.V.
 Goebenstr. 8
 D-28209 Bremen
 Tel.: 0049-421-34.49.29
 Magazine: Fragen und Versuche

5. Arbeitskreis Schuldrückerei
 (Deutsche Gruppe der Freinet-Pädagogik in der F.I.M.E.M.)
 c/o Eberhard Dettinger
 Rathenaustr. 21
 D-70191 Stuttgart
 Tel.: 0711-256.81.82
 Magazine: AKS - Information

- Website of the French Freinet Movement Website of the International Freinet Movement F.I.M.E.M. (Fédération Internationale du Movement de l’Ecole Moderne):
- Website of the French Freinet Movement in Brasilia:
- International Freinet listserv:
- International Freinet-class listserv:
 Co-ordination of the listserv: Bernard Monthubert, France


In French:
BARRÉ, Michel (1996): Célestin FREINET, un éducateur pour notre temps (vol. 2), Mouans-Sartoux, PEMF.
BRULIARD, Luc / SCHLEMMINGER, Gerald (1996): Le mouvement Freinet: des origines aux années quatre-vingt, Paris, L’Harmattan.
BT n° 1079 (1996): Célestin Freinet et l’Ecole moderne, album cartonné de 48 pages et un CD audio des enregistrement de Célestin Freinet, P.E.M.F., Mouans-Sartoux.
Célestin Freinet par lui-même 1996: Cassette de 60 mn. et un livret de 48 pages, P.E.M.F., Mouans-Sartoux.
CLANCHÉ, Pierre / DEBARBIEUX, Eric / TESTANIÈRE, Jacques (Ed.) (1994): La Pédagogie Freinet, mises à jour et perspectives. Bordeaux, Presses universitaires de Bordeaux.
CLANCHÉ, Pierre / TESTANIÈRE, Jacques (Ed.) (1989): Actualité de la pédagogie Freinet. Actes du symposium tenu à l’Université de Bordeaux II (Département des Sciences de l’Education) les 26-27-28 mars 1987. Bordeaux, Presses universitaires de Bordeaux.
FREINET, Célestin (1975): Les techniques Freinet de l’école moderne (7e édition), A. Colin, coll. Bourrelier, Paris.
FREINET, Célestin (1976): Pour l’école du peuple (L’Ecole Moderne Française and Des invariantes pédagogiques), Maspéro, Paris.
FREINET, Célestin (1994): Les œuvres pédagogiques (2 tomes), Ed. Seuil, Paris.
LAFFITTE, Roger (1985): Une journée dans une classe coopérative. Le désir retrouvé, Syros, Paris.
Nouvel Educateur, n° 81, sept. 1996, numéro Spécial Centenaire, P.E.M.F., Mouans-Sartoux.
OURY, Fernand / VASQUEZ, Aïda (1982): Vers une pédagogie institutionnelle ? Paris, Maspéro [first edition: 1967].
POCHET, C. / OURY, F. / OURY, J. (1986): “L’année dernière, j’étais mort…” signé Miloud, Vigneux, Matrice.
SCHLEMMINGER, Gerald (1996): Bibliographie Freinet, Nantes, Editions I.C.E.M..
SCHLEMMINGER, Gerald (1996): La pédagogie Freinet et l’enseignement des langues vivantes: approche historique, systématique et théorique, Berne, Ed. Peter Lang, Bern.
SCHLEMMINGER, Gerald: Bibliographie Freinet, Nantes, Editions I.C.E.M.
VASQUEZ, Aïda / OURY, Fernand (1971): De la classe coopérative à la pédagogie institution-nelle (2 vol.), Paris, Maspéro.

In German:
DIETRICH , I. (1995): Handbuch der Freinet-Pädagogik, Weinheim, Beltz.
HERING, J. / HÖVEL, W. (Ed.) (1996): Immer noch der Zeit voraus. Kindheit, Schule und Gesellschaft aus dem Blickwinkel der Freinetpädagogik, Pädagogik-Kooperative, Bremen, Allemagne.
KOCK, Renate (1995): Die Reform der laizistischen Schule bei Célestin Freinet. Eine Methode befreiender Volkserziehung, Ed. Peter Lang, Bern.
MINUTH, Christian (1996): Freies Schreiben im schülerorientierten Anfangsunterricht Französisch, Cornelsen, Berlin.

In English:
FREINET, Célestin (1990): The Wisdom of Matthew [Les dits de Mathieu], Lewiston, NY, Edwin Mellen Press, ISBN 0-88946-795-1 [traduction: John Sivell, Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada].
FREINET, Célestin (1993): Education Through Work [L’Education du travail] Lewiston, NY, Edwin Mellen Press, ISBN 0-7734-9303-4 [traduction: John Sivell]
CLANDFIELD, D. / SIVELL, J. (Ed.) (1990): Cooperative Learning and Social Change: Selected Writings of Célestin Freinet, Toronto: Our Schools / Our Selves & OISE Publishing, 1990, ISBN 0-921908-07-5 [traduction: David Clandfield, Département d’Études Françaises, Université de Toronto, Canada et John Sivell].