• Organizations and schools which support democratic, learner centred, non-coercive education.
  • Links to information about democratic education—resources, reference material, conferences, and people.

Alternative Schools

The Clearwater School — Seattle, WA

The Clearwater School is part of an international network of Sudbury schools, all of which are based on the 35-year-old Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts. The concepts of Freedom, Trust and Responsibility are at the heart of the Sudbury model. Sudbury schools are run democratically, ensuring that students have the freedom to direct their own education. Sudbury graduates move into their adult lives as self-confident, articulate, resourceful and motivated citizens.

The Brooklyn Free School

A grassroots movement formed in the summer and early fall of 2003 with the goal of offering a true educational alternative to the traditional orthodoxy of education now dominant in most public and private schools in this city, the Brooklyn Free School has now sprouted wings and has been up and running since September 2004. The community is composed entirely of parents, students, educators and others who believe that freedom and democracy are not just textbook concepts, but a way of living and learning – for our children as well as ourselves. The Brooklyn Free School is dedicated to the belief that all students must be free to develop naturally as human beings in a non-coercive educational environment and empowered to make decisions affecting their everyday lives and that of their community.

The Albany Free School

Founded in 1969, The Free School in Albany, New York is the longest running inner-city independent alternative school in the United States. We provide a unique alternative to traditional models of education by offering children a self-directed approach to their learning. Students at our school, many whom have slipped through the cracks of today’s regimented test-driven school system, flourish in a nurturing environment that allows them the freedom to chart their own course of learning while fostering emotional growth and inter-personal skills.

At The Free School, students not only learn the traditional academic subjects, but also valuable lessons about responsibility, problem solving, social justice and most importantly, how to relate to each other. We have always placed great emphasis on student’s emotional well being, fostering loving, caring relationships and developing a community of engaged learners. It is our focus on community building that encourages students to follow their dreams, contribute positively to society, and become voices for change.

Alpha Alternative School

A Canadian publically funded school with strong free school roots, which continues to be without grades.

Windsor House School

Windsor House, publicly funded through the Gulf Islands School District, is a vibrant learning community for young people (K-12) who want to be self-directed and self-responsible.

The The Gulf Islands School District website for Windsor House School

The Windsor House School Community Website

Sudbury Valley School

At Sudbury Valley School, students from preschool through high school age explore the world freely, at their own pace and in their own unique ways. They learn to think for themselves, and learn to use Information Age tools to unearth the knowledge they need from multiple sources. They develop the ability to make clear logical arguments, and deal with complex ethical issues. Through self-initiated activities, they pick up the basics; as they direct their lives, they take responsibility for outcomes, set priorities, allocate resources, and work with others in a vibrant community.

The Village Free School

Our mission is to empower tomorrow’s leaders to become independent, creative, and conscientious citizens capable of thinking for themselves and collaborating with others to create a better world.

Our learning environments honor freedom, promote responsibility, and nurture the well-being of each student and the community. Students are supported and challenged to find meaning in their lives, adapt to the world as it is, and prepare for the world in which they want to live.

Summerhill School

Today many educationalists and families are becoming uneasy with the restrictive environment of many mainstream schools. They are beginning to look for alternative answers to mainstream schooling. One of these answers is democratic or ‘free’ schooling.

There are many models of democratic schools in all corners of the globe, from Israel to Japan, from New Zealand and Thailand to the United States. The oldest and most famous of these schools is Summerhill, on the east coast of England.



The Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO) was founded in 1989 by Jerry Mintz. AERO is a branch of the School of Living, a non-profit organization founded in 1934 by Ralph Borsodi. AERO’s goal is to advance student-driven, learner-centered approaches to education. AERO is considered by many to be the primary hub of communications and support for educational alternatives around the world. Education Alternatives include, but are not limited to, Montessori, Waldorf (Steiner), Public Choice and At-Risk, Democratic, Homeschool, Open, Charter, Free, Sudbury, Holistic, Virtual, Magnet, Early Childhood, Reggio Emilia, Indigo, Krishnamurti, Quaker, Libertarian, Independent, Progressive, Community, Cooperative, and Unschooling. One of AERO’s areas of expertise is democratic process and democratic education, but equally important is the networking of all forms of educational alternatives. It is through our work and mission that we hope to create an education revolution.


IDEN (International Democratic Education Network) is a network of schools, organizations and individuals all round the world that uphold such ideals as:

  • respect and trust for children
  • equality of status of children and adults
  • shared responsibility


IDEA, Institute for Democratic Education in America, is an emerging national nonprofit organization whose mission is to ensure that all young people can participate meaningfully in their education and gain the tools to build a just, democratic, and sustainable world.

IDEA envisions an educational system based on respect for human rights and values of freedom and responsibility, participation and collaboration, and equity and justice.

Founded by educators from across the country, IDEA is committed to bridging the disconnect between our democratic values and the way we educate and treat young people. This disconnect is striking, as the learning experience today is largely determined by a standardized, high-stakes, and de-personalized approach that alienates young people from learning and drives gifted teachers out of the profession.

In contrast, democratic education starts from the premise that every young person is unique, and that all young people ought to have the opportunity to live and learn in an environment that practices meaningful participation, that supports self-initiative in learning, and that is directed towards greater equality and social justice.

We created IDEA to tap into and build on the energy of people around the nation who support democratic education. We believe that only by working together strategically will we have the chance to influence the national dialogue about education advance learning that matters.

The work of IDEA is further guided by our commitment to remain humble and open in our dialogue with others, to be full of genuine regard for all people, to think big and “speak truth to power with love” (West, 1993), and to infuse our work with a spirit of humor, fun, and positivity.

Democratic Schools – a film by Jan Gabbert

When it finally became clear that we, the KinderRÄchTsZÄnker (a group of young people campaigning for children’s rights) were going to undertake the costly task of organising IDEC 2005, we got an exciting idea. It occurred to us that this conference would offer a good and what is more extremely rare opportunity to tell the German public in documentary format about the worldwide alternatives to the current national school routine.

The 21st Century Learning Initiative

The 21st Century Learning Initiative’s essential purpose is to facilitate the emergence of new approaches to learning that draw upon a range of insights into the human brain, the functioning of human societies, and learning as a community-wide activity. We believe this will release human potential in ways that nurture and form local democratic communities worldwide, and will help reclaim and sustain a world supportive of human endeavor.

The 21st Century Learning Initiative was established in 1995 by a group of English and American businessmen and organizations to make sense of research on learning and learning processes that were fragmented in many different disciplines, and embedded in many different universities, research institutions and businesses around the world.

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