History of effe - Achievements and milestones

Achievements and milestones in the history of effe

Achievements and milestones in the history of effe - seeking a pathway towards new horizons

effe is based on the belief that education is at the core of social change. However such social change can only be beneficial if the education system is a free one. In 1989 people from a range of professional backgrounds and from different countries came to the conclusion that they could achieve more if they collaborated and cooperated internationally. Thus, effe was founded in Velence/Budapest in 1990.


69 people from 13 different countries participated in the first meeting. They came from Albania, Armenia, Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Finland, Georgian Republic, East Germany (GDR), West Germany, Hungary, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, Yugoslavia and UK. Within a few years effe grew into an international association of considerable size.


In April 1998 the European Forum for Freedom in Education was awarded a Theodor-Heuss-Medal during the celebration of the Theodor-Heuss-Awards. The motto of the event was “Looking for a New Ethos – Worldwide and at Home”. We were delighted with this recognition of our work.

Shared values are at the core of our success

There are three main reasons for effe's success to date:


1. People from a number of major and many smaller educational reform movements are working together for freedom in education under effe's umbrella. These people treat each other with tolerance and respect.


2. effe members have realised that education is one of the most important prerequisites for inner freedom and social responsibility, for a tolerant society and human development.


3. All members share the belief that free education can only be achieved if institutions are self-reliant and not bound by bureaucracy, economic constraints and political directives.

Accomplishments and Milestones of effe


  • effe is a partner of the International Conference on Togetherness as motivation
  • effe becomes a founding member of CitizensLab


  • effe organizes a symposium in Edinburgh on Improving Social Equity through Education


  • Participation at the EUCIS-LLL, Lifelong Learning Week in December 2013.



  • Społecznego Towarzystwa Oświatowego (STO) - a Polish NGO that promotes education in free schools in Poland - becomes a member of effe



  • Participation at the EUDEC, European Democratic Education Conference, July 25th – August 3rd, 2008.
  • Acceptance of a National Representation in England by Human Scale Education.
  • Establishment of an effe national group in Estonia.
  • Merging of the Swiss effe national group with Elternlobby Switzerland.
  • The effe-project “Beautiful School sInternational” celebrated its 10th anniversary with conferences and competitions in Irkutsk and Nyzhny Novgorod (Russia), Capetown (South Africa) and Ufa (Bashkortostan).
  • “Heading for Helsinki”: In a European relay the effe banner was carried from Vienna to Helsinki.
  • effe becomes a member of the Pan-European organisation EUCIS-LLL.
  • APAPS and the Fédération des écoles Steiner Waldorf in France become members of effe.



  • effe-Denmark and the Dansk Friskoleforening formally object to the regulation of the new educational law.
  • Increasing work with the EU: new member of staff is hired.



  • Establishment of a working group in charge of EU issues.
  • Publication of the “Atlas for the human right to education and freedom in education in the European countries”.



  • Relocation of the effe international office to Bochum, Germany.
  • Contribution to a declaration concerning the Human Rights-Charter of the EU.
  • Letter and resolution to the European Convent regarding the significance of education within the European constitution.
  • 7th anniversary of “Beautiful Schools in Russia” (project for the development of schools in Russia).



  • Successful action for the rescue of a Waldorf-influenced school in Armenia, which was persecuted on grounds of being a sect. The school was about to be closed by the authorities. A statement from effe to the Ministry of Education and Science as well as to the head of the Committee for Culture and Education of the Armenian Republic prevented the closure of the school.
  • Continuing work on a constitution for the EU.



  • In cooperation with the Institut für Bildungsforschung und Bildungsrecht (Institute for Educational Research and Law) effe develops a draft for Article 14 (education) of the Human Rights Charter for Europe, which is presented in Brussels and adopted by various international organisations.
  • Support of the “School for Vital Learning” initiative in Konstanz by arranging consultants for the educational concept and participating in a press conference.
  • effe members donate almost 3000 DM in support of the Summerhill School. The school needs the money for a court procedure. effe Vice President Robert Bell establishes contact with parliamentarians and the school wins the case.



  • effe supports the Freie Schule Karlsruhe, whose approval had already been declined by the Cultural Ministry of  Baden-Württemberg. However, after an exchange of letters with the Minister it is agreed.
  • effe support for Waldorf schools in France, which were accused of establishing a sect.



  • In acknowledgement of its accomplishments in the field of education, especially in Middle and Eastern Europe, effe is rewarded the Theodor Heuss award (Theodor-Heuss-Medaille).
  • Official recognition of effe as an NGO with an advisory status from the European Council.
  • Dr. Hildegard Hamm-Brücher becomes a patron of effe.
  • More than 600 unemployed teachers request the information sheet “Free School jobs” published by effe. This is covered in 10 regional newspapers and on the regional radio.
  • Establishment of the working group “school quality and evaluation”.



  • During the controversy about the Tvind Schools, the state of Denmark made plans for a law suspending the founding of Free Schools for two years. effe successfully protested against this law by sending letters to the Secretary of Education and all members of the school board in the Danish Parliament. Plans for the suspension were lifted.
  • effe introduces itself for the first time at the Interschul Exhibition in Berlin. Together with the Organisation of Waldorf Schools, the Association of Private Schools and the Federal Association of Free Alternative Schools effe organises the well attended “Forum of Free Schools”.
  • A census among its members shows that the number of members has risen from 69 (in 1990) to 680 people and 30 institutions.



  •  Discussion with four parliamentarians and representatives of the press in Bratislava about the liberalisation of the educational system in Slovakia.
  • Campaign in support of a Waldorf kindergarten in Istria: after talks with the mayor of Rijeika the kindergarten continues to receive public funds.
  • Conference on the democratisation of the educational system in Bratislava. Discussion on a draft for an educational law written by Ingo Krampen, member of effe Board.
  • Campaign in support of an Israeli-Palestinian Waldorf school which achieves public funding for the school.
  • The workgroup “Minorities” gives a presentation on the rights of minorities in the educational system with the title “Minorities in the Educational System – a Challenge”.



  • International campaign for schools of the Hungarian minority within Slovakia and for effe members who were fired from their jobs in schools and school supervision, because they defended Hungarian schools against attacks of the Ministry of Education.
  • On request of the European Council effe creates a draft for an optional protocol to the Declaration of Human Rights with special respect to minority questions.
  • The international workgroup “School Supervision” presents effe's suggestions on school supervision. These are sent to all permanent members of the conference of Ministers of Education in Europe.



  • Public campaign and legal support for the Freie Schule Wuppertal, which had been fighting for its licence since 1985. The Ministry of Education received 560 letters and postcards from 20 European countries. The school won the lawsuit against the Minister of Education in 1996.
  • Support of the Freie Schule Spatz in Offenburg through various talks at the Ministry of Education, leading to the school's approval in 1995.
  • effe membership rises to 594.
  • Support of a proposition for further funding of the Waldorf school in Zagreb. The Minister of Education announces a positive outcome during an international conference.



  • After one year of preparation the permanent working group “Innovative Teacher Education in European Cooperation” is founded. Over the years more than 1200 people from different educational approaches have participated in this working group.
  • Founding of the working group “School Supervision”.



  • Publishing of “Suggestions for Educational Laws”, these were sent to all Ministries of Education in European countries.
  • Continued discussions on the development of educational laws in central and eastern European countries, e.g. Latvia, Albania, Russia
  • Second edition of a “Map of Educational Freedom in Europe” published by effe.
  • effe supports the training of Waldorf teachers in Romania by compiling statements from the Association of Montessori and Jenaplan as well as the Federal Association of Free Alternative Schools and submitting them to the German Ministry of Technical Cooperation. 500,000 DM are obtained as a result.



  • Hungarian president Árpad Göncz and Slovakian president Milan Kucan become patrons of effe.
  • Continued discussions on the development of educational laws in central and eastern European countries.
  • Various presentations by effe at conferences in central and eastern Europe.
  • Support of free schools in Sweden during the amendment of the private school act, leading to a 20% increase of free schools, especially Montessori and Waldorf.
  • Lobbying for the law on alternative schools in Finland, leading to a breakthrough for the funding of Waldorf and other alternative schools.
  • Support of initiative groups for the founding of free schools in Eastern Germany as well as in Croatia, Hungary, Slovenia and Czechoslovakia.
  • Passing of the “Memorandum on the Role of the Educational System for the Unification Process in Europe” and the “Helsinki Declaration on the Human Right to Educational Freedom”. These are sent to the conference of the Ministers of Education in Europe.
  • First edition of a “Map of Educational Freedom in Europe”, published by effe and which is sold out within two weeks. 



  • Distribution of materials on basic principles of a free, pluralistic and democratic educational system.
  • Successful discussions on the development of educational laws, e.g. In Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Estonia
  • Foundation of the International Office in Witten-Annen.
  • Members: 69 people.
  • Foundation of effe in Velence, near Budapest (Hungary).
  • First colloquium takes place in Witten-Annen (before the foundation of effe).