The folk schools build on a holistic view of the students and challenge them to grow individually, socially and academically. Learning-by-doing is the basic educational philosophy of the schools, and their core methods are dialogue-based and experiential. The schools strive for challenging classes and courses, but the educational challenges are embedded in the your personal and social growth, too. This focus on the whole person is the strength and unique character of the folk schools, where the point is to motivate, teach, inspire and foster commitment in you, the student. The schools give you the freedom to learn in your own way.
The folk school experience offers a host of opportunities for the students to grow in self-knowledge and to develop their own talents. Through the school’s many fields for learning, not only in the classroom and through the subject-matter, teachers will seek to inspire and challenge you. One important arena for learning is the school’ s social life, including the dormitory. Living with other people provides opportunities for training in working together and communication; creating a well-functioning community requires the ability to solve problems, and many of the activities will focus on life at the school and your fellow students. In addition, through solidarity projects and a focus on your role as an active citizen, the schools try to expand your social perspective to incorporate outlooks from the rest of the world. In the interaction between different people, different opinions, and different values, your own opinions and values are confronted, making you more aware of the choices that you yourself make.
Life at a Folk School
Folk Schools are small learning communities where all the students live on campus in close contact with staff and other students. You study, have meals and attend classes together. Dormitory rooms are frequently double rooms, but many schools offer singles as well. The staff usually lives at or close to the school. With their families they often spend time with the students outside ordinary teaching hours. This close relationship makes teaching and learning more dynamic and personal than in the case of traditional education; at the same time, you as a student gain unparalleled social insights. Most of the school facilities, such as gyms, darkrooms, libraries, music rooms and craft rooms, are open for informal activities after class hours. All schools are small, with a typical enrollment of 60-100 students, and in these educational communities each student makes a difference. Students come from all part of Scandinavia, as well as a few from other countries (about 10%).
The major subject courses, which are specific areas of in-depth and specialized study, included music, performing arts, outdoor life, mass media, computer education, crafts, international solidarity and sports. The major subject comprise 10-20 hours of instruction per week. Some schools offer a Scandinavian language and culture as a major subject, but in other classes you will be integrated with Scandinavian students. Others do offer a language course in addition to the major subject. In this case, and if you have not studied a Scandinavian language before, you should choose a major subject and electives with mostly practical activities.
Some courses are only suitable for those who already are proficient in a Scandinavian language; these will typically be courses like media and mass communication, philosophy, leadership training, or writing workshops.
Electives and compulsory classes
The folk schools also offer you a variety of elective subjects throughout the school year.
Most schools have a set of required classes for all students. An important part of folk school life is common learning experiences and shared activities, which often means that all students attend the same classes. Depending on the philosophy of the school, the shared learning may deal with subjects like literature, history, current issues, philosophy and/or Christianity, or students may sing in the school choir, take study trips and excursions together.
Who attends Folk Schools?
Folk Schools are open to all, and every year about 6000 students attend. Most schools admit students 18 years and older. By far the largest group of students is young adults, between 18 and 25 years old. Most Scandinavian students are between 19-20 years old. There are international students attending almost every folk school. In recent years, there have been students from more than 70 different countries, for example Germany, the Netherlands, the United States, Ethiopia, South Africa, China, India and Peru.
Folk School, What it is Not!
By law, folk schools conduct no formal examinations and issue no degrees. After finishing your school year, you will receive a diploma detailing what you have participated in.
Having a job while you attend a folk school is not feasible, as lectures and activities will also take place in the evenings and during weekends.
Why Do Young People Go to Folk School for a Year?
Typically, folk school students are looking for unconventional educational experiences at a place which both enlightens and trains for participation in a democratic society. Many people need a year to consider what to do next in terms of education and occupation, a break between school and college and their continuing studies at a university, or a break from a standardized curriculum and the exam pressures in the traditional school systems. The unique social life is also an important reason for many to choose a semester/year at a folk school.
What Do You Gain from a Folk School Year?
Folk schools are probably the single best way of gaining first-hand and practical knowledge of a Scandinavian language. You can expect that throughout the year you will be able to use the language on an everyday level to communicate with native speakers.
Folk schools are places of self-discovery where you are encouraged to develop your own strengths and grow as a person. With your own outlook and motivation as a foundation, you are encouraged to set goals and actively take charge of your life. A warm and open study environment stimulates personal growth and development in a social setting.
Learning for Life
The schools offer a variety of subjects, but their common denominator is an educational program where you focus on your own interests and abilities. The folk school experience is meant to challenge the whole person – the complete you. The idea behind this form of education is that learning only becomes a significant part of our lives if we are actively involved and share responsibility for it. A year at a folk school will broaden your horizon. A broad spectrum of subject will inspire you to go on with your education and future career. Along with social insights, they are useful tools on your road ahead. The folk schools call this “learning for life”.