Many people have tried to come up with a definition for democratic education since the first proposition for it was set out by John Locke in 1693. At the International Democratic Education Conference in 2005, Berlin, the participants agreed on the following statement:


We believe that, in any educational setting, young people have the right:

  • to decide individually how, when, what, where and with whom they learn
  • to have an equal share in the decision-making as to how their organisations – in particular their schools – are run, and which rules and sanctions, if any, are necessary.


There are many formulations and divergent practices associated with these basic tenets and since everybody knows that one size does not fit all, every democratic education environment represents a unique approach, responsive to- and shaped by- the needs of the community it has been set up to support.


Rachel Circle


Further Links

You can find many other descriptions of what democratic education is elsewhere; for instance, on Wikipedia, from the Institute for Democratic Education in America, or you can read more on other pages of our website.


If these concepts are interesting or inspiring for you, there is so much more one can learn about and explore. Below we have compiled a list of people’s favourite videos, books, blogs and articles. Have a browse. We also feel that the best way to learn about democratic education is to visit a democratic school. So, get in touch if you want to see it with your own eyes, find out more or want to contribute to this shift in perspective.


Rachel Roberts is one of the most inspiring advocates of democratic education. On Radio Four’s Forethought programme, she describes her personal experience of discovering a democratic school. Listen to the podcast here.


Ramin Farhangi helped set up France’s first Sudbury School last year, prompting thousands of people to come together and start new schools. More than 20 new schools opened last September. Ramin’s advice is simply: “just talk to people from democratic schools, if you can… visit one for a few days, read a couple of books about the philosophy, start doing it”.


The European Democratic Education Community (EUDEC)’s conferences take place in a different part of Europe every year. This August, we’re going to Paris to see Ramin and a few hundred other friends. For a cheap holiday, and one of the most comprehensive and inspiring introductions to the worldwide democratic education community, have a think about coming along for the adventure with us this Summer. We’re offering some super cheap tickets on the Eurostar, and also an opportunity to win a free pass for the whole conference. See details here.


We recommend classics like:



And there a few excellent new books, just out, like:


Or, if you want something super-quick and pocket-sized:

Freedom to Learn Manifesto

Freedom to Learn Manifesto: Your Pocket Guide to Freedom, Autonomy and Social Justice in Education


If you prefer screen-based YouTube summaries:




Other YouTube videos give a sense of what it feels like in practice:


You’re very welcome to come along to our meeting about ‘Democratic Education in the UK’ on Saturday 15th July. Please just reserve a place by registering through our Eventbrite page here.


Or, if you feel you need to see it to believe it, let us know where your next holiday abroad is and we can connect you to one of the democratic schools scattered across the globe. Or, here in the UK, we can arrange for you to visit: