International Education Journal


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Lessons from the Norwegian Folk High School Tradition

C. Lee Harrington
Department of Sociology and Gerontology, Miami University

Thomas W. Kopp
Department of Teacher Education, Miami University

Kimberly S. Schimmel
School of Exercise, Leisure, and Sport, Kent State University



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Founded in the mid-1800s, as, in part, a critique of classical education, the Scandinavian folk high school movement has struggled throughout its existence to offer an alternative to traditional education. However, while the philosophical principles of the folk high school system are a necessary departure from broader educational directives, they are not sufficient in ensuring its survival. Drawing on original interview data collected during a research trip to Norway, we explore the philosophy, structure and meaning of the folkehogskole tradition. We suggest that one of the unintended consequences of the connection between the structure and tensions of contemporary folk high schools, and the meanings that are created by students experiences within it, is that folk high schools tend to facilitate the same socialization processes they reject in principle. We situate this discussion in the scholarly literature related to the transitioning-to-adulthood experience.

Norway, folkehogskole, adolescents, socialization, work-to-school transition


Harrington, C.L., Kopp, T.W. and Schimmel, K.S. (2003) Lessons from the Norwegian Folk High School Tradition. International Education Journal, 4 (2), 121-136.

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