Article Index

Fernand Oury (18 January 1920 – 19 February. 1997)

By Laurie Huberman

Fernand Oury was a French pedagogue and the creator, along with the psychologist Aida Vasquez, of institutional pedagogy. He began as a teacher and was critical of the French educational system with, according to him, schools and classes that were too large and with many “absurd regulations.” At first he worked with fellow educator Celestin Freinet to reform organizational practice within urban schools. However, he subsequently broke away from Freinet and founded what he called institutional pedagogy.

During the 1960s and 1970s Oury worked on developing the practical and theoretical instruments which would define institutional pedagogy. These were based on three “pillars of consideration”: 1) materialist (equipment, techniques of organization and activities 2) Sociological (consideration of the dynamics of the group class) and 3) psychoanalytic (“the unconscious is in the class”) He used a number of tools to promote his ideas including a daily discussion with students in the morning, a class council to resolve conflicts, and the use of individualized curricula. 

The 3 poles of Institutional Pedagogy (I.P.) by Etiennette Vellas

By Etiennette Vellas, Doctor in Educational Sciences

Fernand Oury (1920-1998). His pedagogy was once relegated to the margins of the school institution, however it continues to exist today and continues to gain acceptance.

3poles pi


The IP from Fernand Oury is based on a radical theoretical doubt against any "vertical and authoritarian educational structure".
"Where problems exist, solutions exist".
"Not to mention anything that we have not done".

Pioneers have read:
Karl Marx (exploitation is not the inevitable condition of the working class).
Anton Makarenko (plan fair and efficient educational communities).
Sigmund Freund (attention is focused on the desiring subject, the games played by the unconsciousness).

The educational place is considered a place of existence, speech and work where desire is present. A place suitable for identifications and projections of all kinds.

Oury used to say that the IP rested on a tripod composed of materialism, the group and the unconsciousness.

To allow an educational place to live, it needs regulations and laws like any other social organization. Two approaches are then possible, one of regulation, and the other of institutionalization. Oury chooses the latter, the only one capable to respect desire.

This so-called pedagogy “with desire” develops, for this very reason, relationships that are of ternary structure. The exchanges between teachers and children, but also between children or between adults, which are not restricted to face to face interactions. This is because they are publicised by institutions: a set of meetings, operating rules, clearly defined roles, constantly undergoing improvement and being evaluated by the group. Every institution that is malfunctioning should be changed in a collaborative effort.

Oury has taken over Freinet's cooperative classroom. His techniques such as the Newspaper, the Correspondence, the Investigation, etc. are considered as institutions and mediating objects.

The IP relies on specific ancient institutions which often continue to exist: The Market, the Professions, the Sanctions, the Internal Currency, the Level and behavioural belts, the Council, Mutual learning, the Question box, the What's new?, the Meeting, the How are you doing? the Keywords, the Monographs, etc. 

Any rule is also an institution negotiated with the group, but the teacher always remains the guardian of the rules.

For further reading: pdf Fernand Oury et la pedagogie institutionnelle “Fernand Oury- Un Homme est passe”