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Main Page - Educational approaches - Deschooling


In current use, de-schooling is defined as “the process where many of the bad socialization experiences are “cleansed” from a child who is making a transition from public/ private schools into a homeschooling program. Generally, deschooling is supported by people who support unschooling” (

As a concept, de-schooling was developed by Ivan Illich in De-Schooling Society (1970), as a project for educational reform. In this book, Illich defines ‘school as the age – specific, teacher – related process requiring full-time attendance at an obligatory curriculum.” This definition is the basis he provides for the criticism of the schooling process as an institutional process which resists the development of human learning capacity.

Childhood, he argues quoting Philippe Ariès, is a modern development in Western society which has constrained the development of people into ages which determine the ability and performance of childhood. “Growing up through childhood means being condemned to a process of inhuman conflict between self-awareness and the role imposed by a society going through its own school-age” (Illich 1973 p.34).

Schools therefore represent constraints since the pupils are classified by their age, the relationships which teachers seek to establish with them, as ‘custodians’, ‘moralists’ and ‘therapists’ who have the authority and the ability to teach ‘pupils’ what they want them to learn. On the other hand, however, children learn not from their teachers, but ‘increasingly, educational research demonstrates that children learn most of what teachers pretend to teach them from peer groups, from comics, from chance observations, and above all from participation in the ritual of school’ (Illich 1973 p.36).

This relationship shows that as a system, school does not allow learning as an exploratory process to emerge, but is rather an authoritative system that inhibits rather than liberates children’s learning. This perception of education is related to the university system as well which creates a class of academics who are initiated into society, and become its consumers and economic dependents.

Thus, “the alternative to dependence on schools is not the use of public resources for some new device which ‘makes’ people learn; rather it is the creation of a new style of educational relationship between man and his environment. To foster this style, attitudes towards growing up, the tools available for learning, and the quality and structure of daily life will have to change concurrently (Illich 1973 p.75).

“A good (alternative) educational system” which should exist in a de-schooled society, “should have three purposes: it should provide all who want to learn with access to available resources at any time in their lives; empower all who want to share what they know to find those who want to learn it from them; and, finally, furnish all who want to present an issue to the public with the opportunity to make their challenge known” (Illich 1973 p.78).

The characteristics of the educational system that should be created for promoting learning in society should be based on the question of “what kinds of things and people might learners want to be in contact with in order to learn?” The answer to this question lies in the four areas of:

  • Reference services to educational objects: Objects and ‘processes’ needed for formal learning should be made accessible to learners in all areas of learning. These areas could include industrial sites, objects, machines, etc…
  • Skill exchanges: People could ‘list their skills’ so that learners could access them to learn from them.
  • Peer-matching: Learners interested in specific subjects to learn can find ‘partners for the inquiry’.
  • Reference services to educators-at-large: Educators could be selected by their clients and ‘listed in a directory giving the addresses and self-description’ for learners’ access. The ‘deschooling’ programme therefore aims to create a liberated society, in which learning develops in an environment free from the restrictions of school as an institution (Illich 1973 p.105).

The reference to de-schooling on the web appears to be related to material used for teaching children at home, generating learning material for use by parents in a home environment as such it is similar to home schooling, however, the difference between de-schooling and home schooling lies in what is considered a ‘cleansing’ process from the school environment.

Books on De-schooling

Barrow, Robin (1978) Radical Education :A Critique Of Freeschooling And Deschooling, London: Martin Robertson.

Elias, John L. (1976) Conscientization And Deschooling :Freire’s And Illich’s Proposals For Reshaping Society, Philadelphia: Westminster Press.

Gartner, Alan; Greer, Colin and Riessman, Frank (eds) (1973) After Deschooling, What? , New York: Perennial Library.

Illich, Ivan (1973) Deschooling Society, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Ltd.

Lister, Ian (1974) Deschooling :A Reader, London: Cambridge University Press.

Useful links

Substantial discussion of the subject. (Visited 7-July-05)

The Homeschool Zone
This is a site which contains definitions of de-schooling, and how it is related to homeschooling. It also contains educational material for use by homeschoolers. (Visited 7-July-05)

Home Education UK
Central reference point for materials on home-schooling - UK based. (Visited 7-July-05)

Ivan Illich

Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich