Selected Moments of the 20th Century

A work in progress edited by Daniel Schugurensky
Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)


Anarchist teacher Francisco Ferrer opens Modern School in Barcelona

This year, Francisco Ferrer (1859-1909) opens the Modern School. Twenty years before the establishment of Summerhill in England, and inspired by the French Cempuis school, Ferrer's Barcelona Modern School provided a learning environment in which student freedom and choice were paramount.

    The Modern School had no rewards or punishments, exams or marks—the everyday 'tortures' of conventional schooling. And because practical knowledge is more useful than theory, lessons were often held in factories, museums or the countryside. The school was also used by the parents, and Ferrer planned a Popular University. (from Anarchy: A Graphic Guide, by Clifford Harper)

Francisco Ferrer was executed by firing squad in 1909 but the model of the Modern School inspired educators in many other countries, and similar schools were founded  in Britain, France, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, China, Japan and, on the greatest scale, in the USA.


Harper, Clifford (1987). Francisco Ferrer and the Free Schools [online]. Available: (February 16, 2001). In  Anarchy: A Graphic Guide, Camden Press.

A review of Ferrer's book The Modern School by Emma Goldman can be found in Goldman's book Anarchism and Other Essays. Second Revised Edition. New York & London: Mother Earth Publishing Association, 1911. pp. 151-172.

Prepared by DS

Citation: Author (2001). Title. In Daniel Schugurensky (Ed.), History of Education: Selected Moments of the 20th Century [online]. Available:  (date accessed).

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