17 SES 02, Progressive Education
After WWII, European countries had to re-think their social and education systems in order to build a pacific society. Reforming school was considered as the most powerful way to change mentalities and the way of life. Several initiatives emerged in various regions, thank of some charismatic pedagogues. In France, the Ecoles modernes expanded in the whole country under the impulsion of their leader, Célestin Freinet (Peyronie, 2013). At the same time, Fernand Oury and Raymond Fonvielle applied a pedagogy – pédagogie institutionnelle – closely related to psychology (Oury & Thébaudin, 1995). In the French part of Switzerland, the “Groupe Romand d’Ecole moderne” assembled teachers inspired by the same pedagogue; they started experiments in several public schools and diffused their convictions to their colleagues. In England, the school of Summerhill became very famous after the publication in 1960 of Neill’s book, Summerhill, a radical approach to child rearing. The translation published in 1970 by Maud Mannoni, Libres enfants de Summerhill, sold at 400’000 copies made like a “bomb effect” in the French speaking countries. Various initiatives emerged inspired by the libertarian school, both in private and public education systems. The events of May 1968 played also an important role in this movement. Parents and teachers decided to cooperate to propose other type of schools, centred on the child, stimulating creativity and liberty.
The “Ecole Active de Malagnou” founded in Geneva in 1973 was one of them. It was created by a group of persons from various horizons willing to apply “active methods of teaching” inspired by the experimental schools of Dewey, Decroly, Freinet, Ferrière, Neill, Montessori, etc. They claimed for a pedagogy focused on the child fulfilment offering creative and stimulating projects, where children could learn without the pressure of assessment and selection, favouring creativity and liberty. They wanted a school close to the families and the social community, where parents and teachers would cooperate in the education task. That’s why they started with a self-managed organisation (it changed after a few years).
Among the founders there was Michael Huberman (1940-2001), professor of pedagogy at the University of Geneva (Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences). He was also an activist, an international expert and a thinker (Hameline, 2001). He did research in education and was convinced that free school would better prepare children to their future role of citizen. He wanted a school closely connected to the university in order to test new techniques of teaching and assessing, and to allow students to train in an experimental school. But the proximity with the university didn’t please everyone. Some teachers didn’t want to work as trainers or experimentalists and some parents preferred to keep their children away from research.
This contribution will trace the history of this school, focusing on the relations between this specific school and the University of Geneva. The analysis will concern the programs, methods of teaching, as well as the actors involved in the project as teachers or researchers. We will compare it to other schools in Europe founded in the same period of time as well as previous ones existing at the beginning of 20th century related to the New Education movement (Haenggeli-Jenni, u. press). It will help to us to understand more broadly the relations between experimental schools and the educational sciences.
Hameline, D. (2001). In memoriam. Michael A. Huberman (1940-2001). Revue française de pédagogie, 137, 183-185. Haenggeli-Jenni, B. (under press). Les relations science-militance dans le mouvement d’Education nouvelle: le cas de la revue Pour l’Ere Nouvelle. Berne: Peter Lang. Havelock & Huberman, M. (1980). Innovation et problèmes de l’éducation. Paris : UNESCO. Hofstetter, R., Vellas, E. & Barras, V. (1996). Histoire et actualité d’une innovation pédagogique. L’Unité coopérative d’enseignement à Onex-Bosson (1976-1996). Genève, Ed- UCE. Onex-Bosson, GGEM. Huberman, M. (1986). Itinéraire de lecture d’un chercheur américain. Perspectives documentaires en sciences de l’éducation, 8, 7-17. Martin, L., Meirieu Ph., & Pain, J. (2009). La pédagogie institutionnelle de Fernand Oury. Vigneux : Éditions Matrice. Oury, F. & Thébaudin, F. (1995). Pédagogie institutionnelle. Mise en place et pratique des institutions dans la classe. Vigneux : Éditions Matrice. Peyronie, H. (2013). Le mouvement Freinet : du fondateur charismatique à l’intellectuel collectif. Regards socio-historiques sur une alternative éducative et pédagogique. Caen : Presses universitaires de Caen.
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