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)


Founding of Freinet's Public Educator's Co-operative

This year, several French teachers joined together and founded the Public Educators' Co-operative, which launched what is known as the Freinet Movement. The impetus for this movement began four years before, in October of 1924, when Celestin Freinet introduced the Learning Printing Technique. This technique allowed children to use a printing press to reproduce texts that they composed. In Freinet's pedagogy, students would freely write and then critique each other's work. Then, the children would print their work, which would be later compiled into a class journal, Livre de vie. His students' work was exchanged with other classes throughout France, in what became known as the technique of School Correspondence, or Correspondance scolaire. After  the launch of the cooperative in 1928, these techniques would spread throughout the world and the Freinet Movement became really international.

Born in France on October 16, 1896, Freinet graduated with a junior high equivalency certificate. He was eligible to teach, but ineligible to be admitted into college. He began his teaching career in 1921, soon after he served in World War I. He was part of the anarcho-syndicalist teachers' union and an activist in the oppositional group associated with the communist party. In 1927 Freinet joined the French Communist Party, where his work critiqued traditional public education.

Freinet considered traditional means of teaching as outdated. He encouraged his students to conduct their own research by leaving the classroom and observing their own environment. They would then gather and share their findings, print their text, and produce a journal, to be exchanged among other schools. Students established their own timelines and presented their plans to the teacher. The Public Educator's Co-operative included Self-Correcting Files, which consisted of worksheets for students to learn and study independently, according to their needs and desire to learn.

Freinet's ideologies were not favored by all. School authorities sought to have him moved elsewhere. Freinet voluntarily left and founded a school in Vence, where his theories and methods were applied. The school later became known as the Cooperative Institute of the Modern School, aimed towards the development of pedagogical ideas and methods. Later, in 1950, Freinet was severely criticized by the French Communist Party for empowering teachers to believe that they could change the school system in a capitalism society. This was indicative of the tension between the French Communist Party and the Freinet Movement.

Freinet died in October 1966. Nevertheless, his interests in improving the lives of working-class children through the classroom had a tremendous impact in the field of education around the world. Today, the Freinet movement has a vibrant international network (see 

Essential Concepts of Freinet Pedagogy:

Other Useful Sites/Internet: French Freinet Movement (in French) International Freinet Movement (in French)

International Freinet Listserv: 

Sources: History of Freinet Pedagogy

Jenny J. Lee, UCLA, (1997).

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