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Critical Education & Democracy

Teacher: Claus Staal     Lessons: 4/week

Learning objectives

This course provides an introduction to the theory and practice of critical education as a tool for promoting democracy and people’s meaningful participation in social life. It presents a critique of traditional educational institutions and programs which “domesticate” rather than develop a critical consciousness in its learners.


1. a critique of “banking education”

2. thoughts and ideas of progressive educational theorists and thinkers:

  • NFS Grundtvig (education for life)
  • Paulo Freire (problem-posing education)
  • Malcolm Knowles (adult education)
  • Carl Rogers (client-centeredness)
  • John Dewey (education and democracy)
  • Maria Montessori (peace education)
  • Robert Jungk (future workshop)
  • Jürgen Habermas (communicative power)
  • Gert Biesta (education in an age of measurement)

3. case studies of progressive educational projects (e.g. the literacy program of Freire, the Highlander School of Myles Horton, the Philippine-Danish folk high school)

The impact and implications of these theories on formal and non-formal education in both developing and developed countries are discussed.

Learning methods

The main methods of study are class and group discussions, guided personal reflection, lectures and student presentations. At the end of the course, the students present their key learnings in a panel discussion.


International People's College, Montebello Allé 1, 3000 Helsingør, +45 49 21 33 61