A democratic school in Málaga

Are you interested in experimenting with an alternative model of education based on free and self-directed learning inside a democratically run community?

Hi there! We are Mario (4), Noa (7) and Xavi (41). If you find what you are reading interesting, then: Welcome to our project! The truth is that, so far, there is nothing similar around here, but it is possible that all we need to make it real is someone like you.

What is a democratic school?

We have decided to use the term democratic education since it already exists and also has a certain tradition within pedagogical methodologies. It is possible that, if you are in the education scene, you can have an idea of what we are talking about. However, it is possible that newcomers can find this terminology somewhat confusing due to the burden associated with the political interpretation of the word in our language. To speak of democratic education is to speak of a model of education based on unconditional respect and trust towards the children and young people. Such a model only arises when all girls and boys are genuinely recognized as active participants in their journey through education. In democratic education, young people are recognized the right to decide how, what, when, where and with whom to learn, taking into account the limitations of the environment in which they are immersed. That is why we speak of free and self-directed learning. In addition, the school is considered an educational community in whose management and organization all members have the right to participate on equal terms. The operation, management of resources, the school rules and so on, are established through periodic meetings open to all and in which decisions are made according to the principle of one person, one vote.

Why democratic education?

When talking about education, especially regarding the mainstream or official models, it is quite common to overlook the importance of the necessarily present ideological component. It is not strange to hear professionals and experts in pedagogy and/or didactics explain the “most appropriate” way of doing something, although more fundamental questions such as the last purpose or the very essence of what we should teach are seldom addressed with rigor. The truth is, however, that education is not a discipline like physics or mathematics, in which different experts can agree a way to establish the correctness or not of an argument according to more or less objective external criteria. Instead, education is more of a human activity that serves a purpose, and there is no right way to do it. Starting from this idea, all the methodologies could be equally acceptable, and none of them could be considered as better or more valid than others. But it is still true that each of them will have different advantages and disadvantages that can be evaluated according to how well they serve its purpose within the framework of a given ideological context. For us, democratic education, with its advantages and disadvantages, is the maximum expression of respect and trust towards children, and the most appropriate way to serve our ultimate purpose of bringing people to as full a realization as possible of what it is to be a human among all those that we have knowledge from.

But can that be done?

Well, here and now, it is maybe too early to answer that question. There are precedents that make it clear that there is certainly no easy way to achieve it and there are a number of drawbacks to consider. I can think of two of them in particular that, although far from being the only ones, could by themselves compromise the viability of the project. First of all, funding. The lack of financial resources may hinder the starting up and make economic sustainability very difficult to guarantee. If the doors are to be opened one day, the financing would rely on the tuition fees contributed by the participants. Second, the regulatory framework does not contemplate, to date, the possibility of such a school as an officially recognized educational institution. Fundamental questions of the democratic model, such as the non-existence of a curriculum (and any other position would be, from our point of view, too little humble: who should decide what and how much of it must everyone learn?) or an evaluation in a conventional way (on this model no one is worth more than other and everyone is fine from the moment they walk through the door) are incompatible with current education laws. This mean that all students would be, from a legal point of view, in a situation of unschooling. Furthermore, those wishing to access post-compulsory levels of education in the Spanish educational system might be in an unfavorable position compared to their peers enrolled in officially recognized schools.

So, is democratic education for me?

As you can imagine, neither us nor anyone else can answer this question for you. It is up to you, and only you, to take that decision, as well as all those related to to your education, or that of your sons and / or daughters. However, what we can actually do is to offer you some guidance. I am not going to delve into the drawbacks, there are a number (some of them already explained above). But, additionally, bear in mind that if you think that you perfectly know what you want for your children or you would like to have control over everything they can do, then it is likely that democratic education is not for you. On the other hand, if, despite all that, the idea still seems attractive to you, then it may be your thing. If it happened that, when reading some of the previous sections, you have felt that something resonated within you, with your way of understanding education, it is possible that the necessary effort is worth it. If you believe that any young person, boy or girl, regardless of their age, deserves to be treated and respected as an individual and, in spite of all the rest, you are willing to trust him or her unconditionally, then perhaps we can count on you to make it possible.

Would you help us?

Surely you know how hard it is to go against the tide. Sometimes it makes us feel that we have already done almost everything in our power. Anyway, we continue to enjoy doing it every day. And perhaps all we need to take it a step further is someone like you to give us a hand. If you like the idea and would like to commit to it with us, please leave us your email below so we can keep in touch.

I am interested in your project because...

If you'd like to know a little more about democratic education ...

You may find it interesting to take a look at the following resources:

Sudbury Valley

Sudbury Valley is a democratic school opened in the state of Massachusetts, in the United States, in the late 60s. Since then, it has served as a model and inspiration to many other schools in different countries. This is the presentation video shown on their website and it might help you to get a slight idea of what an ordinary day is like there.

Free at Last

Free at Last is the title of a book published in 1987 by Daniel Greenberg, one of the founders of Sudbury Valley School. It talks about the experience of the school when it already had a history of about twenty years. You can read the introduction here, if you find it interesting you might consider reading the entire book

L’Ecole Dynamique

Here you can see Ramïn Farhangi (co-founder of L'Ecole Dynamique, a democratic school in Paris) in a TEDx talk with the eloquent title of Why I have created a school where children do what they want (in French, subtitled in Spanish).