Romantic Pedagogical Model: History, Characteristics, Advantages

The  romantic pedagogical model  is one of the contemporary teaching models that emerged in the 20th century. This model, like the rest of the pedagogical methods that appeared at this time, arose as a reaction to the traditional teaching model that considered students as passive receivers of information.

In the romantic pedagogical model, the fundamental task of the teacher is to help the student develop their capacities, abilities and internal qualities . In this way, the weight of education falls on the student herself, who chooses on her own what she wants to learn based on her natural interests, values and previous knowledge.

Romantic pedagogical model

This educational model was first proposed by Alexander Neill, educational theorist and creator of the British Summerhill school. This educator was one of the greatest exponents of libertarian pedagogy.

History of the romantic pedagogical model

The romantic pedagogical model first emerged in the UK thanks to the work of Alexander Neill. This philosopher and pedagogue, born in 1883, began to search for a new educational model that would allow children to be taught in freedom.

His ideas were based on the belief that all people are good by nature, and that to educate them it is only necessary to give them freedom and guide them in the process of discovering their own interests and strengths.

Dresden in Germany

In 1920 Neill moved to Dresden, a German town, to found his first school in collaboration with several existing projects in the town. However, due to problems with the leadership of the other projects, his school underwent several changes of location. It finally settled in 1923, in the town of Lyme Regis in England.

This house, called Summerhill, was the first school in the world that followed the principles of the romantic pedagogical model. However, due to its success, several schools were founded over the next few decades that imitated its operation.

Despite a large number of legal and operational problems, these types of schools are still in operation today. In these, the children are educated in full freedom, without the need to take compulsory classes or be evaluated through grades.


The romantic pedagogical model, based on the ideas of Alexander Neill, is based on the premise that all people are good by nature. Thus, the educator’s job is not to impose adult views on children, but to help them discover their own truths and explore their interests.

Unlike many other educational currents that think that children must be educated so that they can become civilized citizens, the promoters of this model believe that children learn on their own to be reasonable and ethical adults if they are released.

Therefore, the main objective of schools based on the romantic pedagogical model is to offer children a safe space so that they could explore their interests, as well as enough time to do this task.

Importance of emotions

Neill believed that emotional education for children was much more important than intellectual education. For this reason he was reluctant to teach children to compete with one another, and to educate them in the repression of their own impulses and in puritanical values.

One of the biggest criticisms of this model came precisely from the fact that it promoted “free love.” According to various sources, Summerhill School students could have relationships with anyone they wanted, including teachers.

Considering the time when schools of this type were created, this behavior was seen as highly immoral.

Due to the great importance given to emotions in this educational system, the main objective of this pedagogy is the happiness of each individual. For its defenders, happiness consists in exploring one’s own interests without any kind of restriction.

In this sense, Alexander Neill did not agree with many of the pedagogues of his time, who wanted to change the traditional authoritarian model for a more empathic one . For him, any kind of guidance from the teacher was an imposition and, therefore, reduced the freedom of the children.

Limitless freedom?

Despite the importance that Neill placed on the freedom of the students, he did not believe that it had to be absolute.

The limit was established in behaviors that could harm themselves or others. Therefore, one of the teachers’ roles was to protect their students from external harm, until they were able to fend for themselves.

On the other hand, the creators of the traditional pedagogical model did not believe in pure hedonism, that is, in the pursuit of everything that one wants at all times. For example, Neill was against “spoiling” children, saying that in an environment of freedom, children acquire the ability to self-regulate their desires.

Advantages and disadvantages

The romantic pedagogical model has met with both intense criticism and praise over the past decades. Some of the most important are the following:


– Children can choose for themselves what they want to know; therefore, they are more interested in the process of acquiring knowledge and better retain what they learn.

– Children’s spontaneity increases, but also their capacity for self – regulation and their commitment to themselves.

– Children receive a better emotional education and are more prepared to face challenges, since they do it from a young age.


– Being such an open educational model, the children who leave this type of school generally do not have the basic knowledge of the national curricula. In this sense, they could be at a disadvantage relative to other children.

– There is a very great lack of teachers prepared to carry out this educational model.


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  3. “AS Neill” in: Wikipedia. Retrieved on: February 21, 2018 from Wikipedia:
  4. “Pedagogical models” in: Educar. Retrieved on: February 21, 2018 from Educar:
  5. “Summerhill School” in: Wikipedia. Retrieved on: February 21, 2018 from Wikipedia:

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