Article Index

Celestin Freinet (15 October, 1896 – 8 October 1966)

By Laurie Huberman

Celestin Freinet was a noted French pedagogue and educational reformer. He began his teaching in the French village of Le Bar sur Loup and soon after began developing his own teaching methods. One of his key tools was the use of a printing press for free texts and school newspapers. He went on to create the teachers' trade union from which arose the French teacher movement called “Mouvement de l'Ecole Moderne” and which aimed to change public education from the inside with the cooperation of teachers. His teaching methods were, however, at such odds with official policy that he resigned in 1935 and started his own school in Vence.

There were five defining concepts of Freinet's pedagogy and these were: 1) pedagogy of work (encourage children to make things and provide services 2) inquiry-based learning (group-based trail and error work) 3) cooperative learning 4) a natural method (learning based on real experiences of children) and 5) democratic self-government.

The 3 poles of Freinet’s teaching according to Etiennette Vellas:

By Etiennette Vellas, Doctor in Educational Sciences

Freinet (1896-1966). Freinet’s teaching was developed and is currently implemented by the Feinet movement, which spans across all continents. His private school in Vence was founded in 1935 and became public in 1991. It currently holds an experimental status.


3poles freinet

The "practical theory" which was developed by Freinet, continues to evolve as a pedagogy which disrupts the nature of elitist schools to construct a school for the nation:

- The material environment influences behaviour and learning patterns. 

- Pedagogical materialism publicises the relationship whilst structuring the learning circumstances.

- The tools are to be placed at the centre of the whole educational system because they represent the leading organizers: they establish a rhythm in the classroom and a course of action that is not arbitrary. They adopt various and complementary skills, allowing each child to have a place in the development process and to make "his/her" unique and irreplaceable place within the group.

- Knowledge acquired in the human sciences, arts and crafts and the professional world.

- Children's rights.

- The classroom is a workshop, a place of production.  

- It is collaborative by necessity, to keep the wheels turning.

- Freinet's techniques. A few examples:

Printing yesterday, the latest technologies today.

The newspaper, besides its use as a support to learn spelling, graphic design, grammar, mathematics, etc., is a tool that opens the classroom to the external environment. It enables the external world to infiltrate the classroom and gives purpose to any kind of work. Imagination and creativity is present through free texts, drawings, which are present alongside investigations, results from a piece of research, the abstract of a presented conference.

All this results in a strange classroom where everything is embedded and connected. It is more a question of work rather than exercises, since one writes, searches and creates because others correspond, print, buy, sell and investigate. Real problems, which must be solved, are encountered in the classroom: technical, conceptual, relational problems, which are discussed at the cooperation council supervising the production.

For further reading: Celestin Freinet

Education 2/4 – France Culture L'ecole moderne de Celestin Freinet in 1958. A documentary in French by Severine Liatard et Severine Cassar.

2 films: l'Ecole buissonniere (1949) et Le maitre qui laissait les enfants rever (2006)

Freinet, C., Education through work: a model for child centered learning, translated by John Sivell Lewiston, Edwin Mellen Press, 1993

Pedagogie Freinet une classe pas comme les autres (Gilles Sapirstein), Temoignages d'une ecole Freinet (Laurent Grouet),L'ecole selon Feinet (EcoloMarchin), Pedagogie Freinet France 3 Pays de Loire, 5 Sept. 2015 (Sylvain Connac)