Folk Schools

The work and vision of ELF is rooted in the Philippine tradition of popular education or “pop-ed.” This tradition of popular education located itself primarily in the democratic resistance movement against dictatorship, which is a significant shared experience of the founding members and immediate community of ELF.

The restoration of formal democracy in 1986 posed new challenges and possibilities. From the dominant orientation of pop-ed in the service of  a  “politics of resistance,” we had to explore the new orientation of pop-ed in the service of a “politics of participation,” without giving up on the need for resistance.

Outside influences on popular education in the Philippines were mainly from the tradition of resistance and critical thinking. Foremost among them is Paolo Freire and his Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

In their search for new paths to participation the founders of ELF discovered the Danish folkehojskole tradition and the educational ideas of N.F.S Grundtvig.

Learn from others. Think for ourselves.

The ideas of Freire and Grundtvig have important influence on the thinking and methods of ELF.

But the dominant influence on our thinking is our driving passion “to deepen and broaden democracy” in the Philippine after 1986. We chose the formation of grassroots community leaders as our strategic focus.

Although we had been aware of some forms of longer residential courses for grassroots leaders in the Philippines, ELF took inspiration and instruction from the Danish folkehojskole model. Hence we conducted our residential Grassroots Leadership Course under the framework of the “Philippine-Danish Folk School.”


However, we did not see our work as planting a Danish seed on Philippine soil. Instead, we considered the Philippine-Danish Folk School as a child of two parents – the Philippine tradition of popular education, and the Danish tradition of folk high schools. Of course, in addition to these two primary parents, there are other influences, especially Paolo Freire.

The name we have given to this child is Paaralang Bayan, Paaralang Buhay. School of the people. School of life.

Community-Based Learning System

ELF’s mission of promoting the development of folk schools in the Philippines can be interpreted more generically as promoting the development of community-based learning systems. Key to this is our program of developing not just grassroots community leaders, but also grassroots community educators and education managers.

School of Rural Reconstruction

Recently, ELF is involved in developing courses on grassroots leadership and on adult and popular education for a consortium project to set up a “School of Rural Reconstruction.”

The ideas on rural reconstruction are based initially on the work and writings of James Yen, who started the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) and the International Institute for Rural Reconstruction IIRR). But we have also rediscovered the ideas of Rabindranath Tagore on rural reconstruction. And even more recently, through the ILGA award given to Ed dela Torre, we have discovered the work and writings of Kim Yong-ki on transforming rural villages.

ELF is delighted to tap these Asian resources in developing further our mission and vision.

Ed dela Torre

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