Folk High School, What is it?
The folk high 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 high 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 high 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.
Stensund Folkhögskola is beautifully situated in a Swedish Manor House on its
own private beach overlooking the Baltic archipelago. The school lies four miles
from Trosa, a small fishing village on the eastern coast of Sweden, 60 miles south
of Stockholm. Stensund provides a comfortable base for relaxing and learning
and offers an array of outdoor activities. The spectacular setting provides opportunities
for walking in the large forests, swimming in the Baltic Sea, exploring the coast
by bicycle or paddling a canoe. There is also a gym, and several saunas, including
one right on the beach.
Life at a Folk High School
Folk High 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 International People’s College (IPC) is a Danish Folkehøjskole founded in
1921, which offers liberal education to adults. Inter-disciplinary and creative
subjects are taught by an international faculty to students from all parts of
the world residing at the College. IPC was founded after the First World War as
an instrument for the non-violent promotion of social and economic justice through
cross-cultural dialogue and cooperation. Since that time, more than 50,000 students
have participated in its work and in 1988 the College was designated a ‘Peace
Messenger’ by the United Nations. IPC is thus a forum where students can develop
awareness of the part played by personal responsibility and affirmative action
in creating an environment for effective change.
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.
Wendelsberg Folk School is located in Mölnlycke, a suburb outside of Göteborg,
the second largest city in Sweden. The college lies on a small hill at one end
of the village in a large park with lovely walking paths along ponds and small
lakes. The main building used to be a private residence built in the late 19 th century. Participants will be lodged in double occupancy rooms in a two-story
building with an elevator. Each room has a private bathroom. Meals are served
in the beautiful old dining room, which dates back to 1883.
Electives and compulsory classes
The folk high 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 high 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.
Tollare Folk School on the island of Varmdön. Stockholm is easily accessible
by bus (7 miles). Tollare has a beautifully restored 16th-century manor house
in a traditional Swedish style, and is gloriously situated in a park right at
the Baltic Sea. Participants will be able to stroll around and rest in these
quiet and serene surroundings. Accommodations at Tollare are in comfortable double
occupancy rooms with private bathrooms.
Who attends Folk High Schools?
Folk High 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 high 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.
Paasikivi Opisto, a college-style boarding school and conference center, is housed
on an old estate on the island of Kakskerta, 10 miles from Turku, with facilities
for both studying and recreation including tennis, golf, and saunas. Accommodations
are in double occupancy rooms with private bathrooms. Finland’s oldest city Turku
dates from the late 12th century, and is known as the cradle of Finnish culture;
it served as the national capital until 1812. Turku today is a busy port with
an international flavor.
Folk High School, What it is Not!
By law, folk high 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 high 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 High School for a Year?
Typically, folk high 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 high 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 high
Fana Folk School is situated on the western coast of Norway, fifteen miles south
of Bergen, in peaceful surroundings by the sea on the Fana Fjord. There are several
buildings, which comprise the college, one of which is a restored manor house
built in the early 18th century. The Norwegian Arboretum at Milde is the college’s
neighbor, and displays a variety of foreign trees and shrubs. The area is very
attractive with a landscape of hills, rocky gorges, a small lake and a shoreline
of several miles length.
What Do You Gain from a Folk High School Year?
Folk high 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 high 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 LifeThe 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 high 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 high 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 high schools call
this “learning for life”.