The Charter of the Modern School

01 July 2005
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The ICEM (Institut Coopératif de l'Ecole Moderne) and the FIMEM (Féderation Internationale des Mouvements de l'Ecole Moderne) are the official organisations of Freinet education. There are over 2000 Freinet teachers in state schools in France, where head teachers have no authority over the teaching methods in individual classrooms in their schools.)

Even though the charter of the Modern School was produced some time ago (1968), its philosophy remains completely up to date. It represents a basic text to which all members of the ICEM and the FIMEM still adhere.

1. Education is development and growth; it is not the accumulation of knowledge or drill or training. In this spirit we seek out working methods and 'tools' – ways of organising and living – which allow maximum development and growth. Supported by the work of Célestin Freinet and strengthened by our own experience, we are certain that we influence not only the children who will become the adults of tomorrow, but also the educators who are called upon to play a new role in society.

2. We are opposed to all indoctrination. We do not claim to define in advance what the children we are educating will become; we are not preparing them to serve and preserve the world as it is today, but to construct that society which will best guarantee their full development. We refuse to bend their spirit to any unquestionable, pre-established doctrine. We strive to turn our pupils into aware, responsible adults who will build a world where there will be no war, no racism, no discrimination and no exploitation of our fellow men.

3. We reject the illusion of an education which is self-sufficient, separate from the great social and political currents which condition it. Education is one element, but only one element, of a necessary social revolution. Its social and political context, the working and living conditions of the parents as well as the children, have a decisive influence on the education of the younger generation. We must show educators, parents and everyone associated with schools that it is essential to fight socially and politically at the side of the workers so that state education can fulfil its pre-eminent function. In this spirit, every one of our members will act according to his own ideological, philosophical and political preferences, so that the demands of education become an integral part of the vast human effort to find happiness, culture and peace.

4. Tomorrow's school will be a school for work. Creative work, freely chosen and undertaken by the group, is the great principle, the very foundation, of popular education. It is the origin of everything the child learns, and an affirmation of the whole range of the child's potential. Regenerated by the experience of work and responsibility, schools will become completely integrated into the social and cultural background from which today they are arbitarily separated.

5. The school will be centred around the child. It is the child who, with our help, constructs his own personality. It is difficult to know a child – his psychology, his talents, his enthusiasms – well enough to base our educational practice on what we know; however, Freinet pedagogy, which is based on natural, free expression, a nourishing environment, and materials and techniques which make possible a natural, living, cultural education, results in real psychological and pedagogical reform.

6. Experimental research in the classroom – the first element of our effort at modernisation through co-operation. The ICEM has neither catechism nor dogma, and there is no system which we require anyone to adopt. On the contrary, we organise a continual comparison of ideas, research and experiment at every active level of our movement. Our movement is animated by the practice and the principles which have been shown by experience to be effective in our classrooms: constructive work (which eliminates pedantry), free activity in the framework of the community, freedom for the individual to choose his own work within a team and discipline exclusively by consensus.

7. The direction and the development of the cooperative work of the ICM is controlled entirely by the membership. The work is essential. That is what leads members of our movement to take up posts of responsibility. There is no question of any other consideration. We are profoundly interested in the life of our co-operative because it is our home, our workshop; we must nourish it with our financial support, our efforts and our thoughts, and we are ready to defend it against anyone who may damage our communal interests.

8. Our Modern School movement is eager to maintain a sympathetic and collaborative relationship with any organisations working towards the same ends. While our wish remains to serve state education as well as possible and our aim is to hasten the modernisation of teaching methods, we nevertheless offer, from a position of total independence, loyal and effective collaboration with all non-denominational organisations engaged in the struggle with us.

9. Our relationship with the administration. At the heart of the classrooms which are our laboratories, in our training centres for teachers, in regional or national in-service courses, we are ready to offer our experience to our colleagues for the sake of the modernisation of teaching methods. But as workmen who know and understand our work, we intend to preserve our liberty to help, serve or criticise according to the demands of the co-operative action of our movement.

10. Freinet pedagogy is, in its essence, international. We have set ourselves the task of developing our efforts on an inter-national scale through the principle of co-operative working teams. Our internationalism is, for us, more than a profession of faith, it is an essential part of our work.

We have set up, with no propaganda but our own enthusiastic efforts, an international federation of modern school movements (FIMEM) which has not replaced other international movements but acts on the international level as ICEM does in France, developing a brotherhood of work and shared destiny which will profoundly and effectively support all work for peace.

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