Social Pedagogy Across Europe

Socrates and Plato addressed the social component of education during the classical period, since for them man learns better in community because personal production can be debated in common with others. This type of education was meant to form a full and integral man capable of fully developing himself in different spheres of his daily life.

In the Middle Ages the trend was humanism with a theocentric vision, the clergy was in charge of education centralizing the acquisition of knowledge for the upper social class during the Renaissance.

In the Renaissance the aesthetic vision of education left ethics second. While in the illustration everything led to science and reason (intellectualism) for the sake of human progress, although without leaving aside the former. However, the idealistic pedagogy of Kant and Pestalozzi had an idea that integrated intellectualism with humanism, the rational and the ethical.

Social Pedagogy in Germany

Kant saw education as the only tool for man to be man, it was this that differentiated him from the others.

“Behind education hides the great secret of human nature.”


Education was nothing more than that bridge that allowed the development of intellectual and moral capacities. For this reason, he divided it into discipline, culture (school training skills), civility and moralization (spiritual skills), clarifying that they could be addressed from school; he was looking for an institution that would complement religious education with extra-confessional intellectualism.

In addition; Pestalozzi, the founder of the popular primary school, considered that education was not exclusive to the upper class but was a human right and a social duty based on the idea of a spiritual and physical education of the child. It was hoped that the school would direct him from the social sphere and would provide him with upbringing, discipline, culture, prudence, civility and morality. This idealized education had a direct impact on the development of Social Pedagogy in Germany.

The starting point was given by two strands of specific thought. In the first place an open mind, social sensitivity and conceptual maturity in relation to Social Education. On the other hand, a social situation full of problems, shortcomings and conflicts that demanded urgent responses, given as a result of the needs and demands derived from the conflicts of Europe in the 20th century. Thus, the way for the evolution of this pedagogical trend was opened both in Germany and in the rest of the world.

Social Pedagogy in France

Also called the Francophone orientation of the rationalist tradition (intellectualists), it gave importance to the political, institutional and social environment of the school system. They believed in the democratization of education, passing first through popular education and second through Sociocultural Animation.

This orientation had some intellectuals who were determining for this pedagogy. Durkheim, with Education as Socialization, while Bordiey and Passeron, with Education as Social Reproduction.

For them, social pedagogy was an interdisciplinary task, since when analyzing education as a social phenomenon, the intervention of pedagogues, sociologists, doctors, psychologists, psycho-pedagogues and other professionals was necessary. They had to try to guide the practice in an education for life based on the political, sociological, ethical, historical and other factors that formed the social context of the population to intervene.

Social Pedagogy in Spain

In Spain, social pedagogy has had a great influence from Germany and France in the institutional, academic and professional environment. Also from the associative, economic and scientific communication dynamics given by the European Union. This is how they have been unifying the general conceptualization of the subject, without losing the style and identity of the sociocultural characteristics of their national context.

This trend began in Barcelona in the mid-sixties, these types of pedagogues were known as Specialized Educators, recognized as professionals since 1972, emerging with diplomas in social education, until today reaching degrees in Social Pedagogy or lectures in the curricula in faculties of education in different universities.

This trend began in Barcelona in the mid-sixties. These types of pedagogues were known as Specialized Educators, recognized as professionals since 1972, with diplomas in social education emerging, until today reaching degrees in Social Pedagogy or lectures in the study plans in faculties of education at different universities.

Books and articles on the subject have also been issued in different publishers, specialized magazines, seminars and national or international conferences, all endorsed since 2000 by the Iberoamerican Society of Social Pedagogy (SIPS).

The teachers of the department of history of education at the Complutense University of Madrid propose the following theories in the area of social pedagogy:

“It will deal with the theory and praxis of the improvement of man as a social being, that is, in everything that is related to his personality, his conduct, his attitude, his habits or behaviors that positively promote the values of the individual and the community , understood as educational social values “ (Arroyo, 1995)

Arroyo suggests an objective that lies in the intervention provided to people with certain social risk problems. Seeking to return respect, rights, problem solving and managing emotions to adapt again in the different contexts in which they will perform.

“I understand by Social Pedagogy the theory and technique of the social formation, being a normative science that is especially concerned with the pedagogical intervention on individuals and social groups that are in problematic or deficiency situations and need to be integrated into the community.” (Valencia, 1998)

Unlike Arroyo, whose objective is the individual, Valencia incorporates intervention in the social environment into this process, that is, moving from school to non-formal extra-curricular reality.

“The fundamental object of Social Pedagogy is to offer the necessary and sufficient help so that man, during all stages of his life, correctly and successfully develops his own socialization process. In short, that the primary function of Social Pedagogy is to research, design and execute the approriate social education to that purpose. “

Finally Merino invites to investigate from the educational and social research the different contexts and stages of life of the human being, to then design objectives and practices that are really effective for the purpose of this type of education.

Social Pedagogy in the United Kingdom

            Here is an interesting and extensive history regarding social pedagogy. The first formal steps were taken in the 1960s, especially in Scotland when attempts were made to reform the juvenile justice system. However, only in the first decade of this century was the practice of Social Pedagogy formalized. One of the UK’s most significant contributions to this field has been the formation of the Social Pedagogy Professional Association, in addition to the first formal study programs in English.

Social Pedagogy in Denmark

            The main role of social pedagogues is to work with people who have special needs or are marginalized. The idea is to incorporate them into society trying to lead them to a life in normal conditions. In this country there is the possibility of pursuing a professional career or a master’s, since the first time the profession was mentioned was in 1901 in order to treat vulnerable young people.

The Danes divide the profession into three phases; macro, micro and meso”. The first one refers to the impact that is sought to be created inside and outside the Danish society; the second refers to the development of the profession and the way in which pedagogues are formed; the third indicates the how and when to work towards the formation of leaders. Finally, they are the authors of the didactic and reflective tool called by its Danish acronym: “SMTTE”.

 The SMTTE in English is a COAEE model (context, objective, action, evidence and evaluation). In short, it is a tool for pedagogues that seeks to facilitate the planning of activities with the community that urge them to work the context with a clear objective, putting it into action, resulting in evidence and subsequent reflection or evaluation of the process.

Social pedagogy in the Czech Republic

In this country the development of theory and practice was influenced after experiencing the communist regime for more than 40 years. Its history dates back to the 19th century with a gap between 1948 and 1989, since said regime denied the existence of social problems and played down the profession. After the end of communism, social pedagogy began to flourish again and has been creating significant impacts in terms of prevention in issues such as bullying, cyberbullying, drug use, racism, ethnic minorities, among others.

Social Pedagogy Across Europe

In this way, a general overview of social pedagogy in Europe has been given. It has been shown that although in school you learn to live together in society through behavior and disciplines, the latter occupy the highest percentage of school time, leaving to a lesser extent all those activities related to socialization, personality development and identity. In other words, the school lost its social component and began to carry out a simple transfer of content required by the ministries of education and available at the click of a button.

Therefore, social pedagogy becomes an important discipline as it provides additional tools that can nurture pedagogical practice and guide children not only in content but in growth as social beings, so that they can spontaneously and naturally function in any sphere of society, said in Steniner’s words:

“When a child can relate what he learns to his own experiences, his vital interest is awakened, his memory is activated and what has been learned becomes his own”

Finally, it is clear that this is a trending profession across Europe and that in countries such as Ireland, Hungary, Slovenia, and others, it is also the leading. Keeping in mind that its application approach varies according to the cultural differences of each nation.


Arroyo Simón, M.  (1995)¿Qué es la Pedagogía Social? Bordón, 257, p.201-215.

Mendizabal, M. R. L. (2016) La Pedagogía Social: Una Disciplina Básica En La Sociedad Actual Revista Holos, vol. 5, pp. 52-69 Instituto Federal de Educação, Ciência e Tecnologia do Rio Grande do Norte Natal, Brasil

Pérez Serrano, G. (2002). Origen y Evolución de la Pedagogía Social. Pedagogía Social. Revista Interuniversitaria, núm. 9, 193-231. España.

Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. (01 de April de 2020). Social Pedagogy across Europe | Course. (U. A. Barcelona, Editor) Retrieved 04 de June de 2020 from Coursera:

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