Skip to main content

International correspondence


International correspondence

the year of the issue of the Célestin et Élise Freinet stamp

The class outside the walls, an opening to the world, to others. Undoubtedly, historically, this is the first "technique" implemented and recommended by Freinet, even before printing. Going out, visiting, meeting, investigating, questioning, all ethnological work made available to very young children so that they can understand their surroundings. The printing house will make it possible to format the results of these surveys, and to communicate them to the whole class, then to send them to a network that began to be organized in 1924 with classes outside the borders.

The correspondence began with the sending of free texts, then, once linked together, newspapers. Correspondence was born "natural1" in that newspapers are sent to networks of about twenty classes. The class-to-class correspondence was only gradually implemented.

Do all these networks practice Freinet pedagogy? Their first aim is to get the printing industry and therefore the free text adopted. In parallel with school correspondence, correspondence between teachers is being set up in order to exchange experiences, which will feed into successive pedagogical reviews in the form of articles.

Rural schools are poor and do not have the financial means to travel. It is therefore of the utmost importance to question each other between schools, to send each other local specialities (cheeses, figs, olives...), to describe customs and practices, to exchange photos, sound recordings and films.


The priority, in the time of the pioneers of the École Moderne, is given to a change of scenery. You choose to correspond with a remote region or country to broaden your knowledge. We'll soon be confronted with the question of languages. Can we exclude from the correspondence all the countries that constituted the USSR, at the time carrying a political ideal for a large part of the teachers? Freinet, travelling through Russia from north to south in 1925, established contacts that he wished to maintain and multiply. Then Esperanto was adopted, which would become the language of international communication in the movement, so that no civilization would be privileged to the detriment of others.

Until 1982, pedagogical writings were primarily intended for Francophones. But already from 1968, in international meetings, Esperanto was less and less practiced. The principle of translations into three European languages, still in force today, will gradually be adopted, which will significantly reduce the time required for oral communication. Lusophones are excluded, although they are very numerous.

However, by 2018, languages, in their diversity, should no longer be an obstacle to written (and soon oral) communication. The practice of international correspondence had already relieved me of my complexes a long time ago: one almost always finds in a class, a child, a parent, and in the school a teacher, likely to translate, especially when communication is made a priority, and when grammatical purity is left to those who want to pursue a career in interpreting.
In 2018, if we use an appropriate automatic translator and place the original language of the message under the translated language, we will be able to understand each other. The most conscientious will check their translation using two separate proofreaders and reverse the translation to check. And let us not forget that we claim the same values of collaboration, so let us look together, between correspondents.

In 2018, let us not register to correspond in a specific language, but to exchange with those who will change our scenery. Adopting this mode of operation, it is only once the choice of a region or country has been made that the common project, of which the means of communication is a part, will be defined. To return to a single language today that Esperanto has almost disappeared would mean imposing English.

What is behind the choice of English language?

Replace Esperanto with English. It is not politically defensible. It is not part of our values to support an imperialism that is becoming global. The value "profit" is not in our charter. However, choosing a language is choosing a civilization, the one that has given itself the imperialist mission of dominating the world, militarily, politically and economically, going so far as to insidiously model our artistic tastes.

For a large number of children, the cop in police series, scripted by software, shot day after day on television screens, becomes the model to imitate. It is therefore natural to make English the first compulsory language in all schools in the world. The choice of a language is not neutral.
Choose your correspondents freely, but what can we exchange and how?

Types of correspondence, historical or adapted to the modern world.

At the beginning and until recently, only postal mail was known. Freinet is constantly looking for derogations to lower the price. Circulars are slipped into newspapers to avoid an additional stamp and benefit from a lower rate. Many factors turn a blind eye, but cheating is reported in some post offices.

In 1926, a network of Pathé-Baby films was set up to enable children and teachers alike to get to know each other, to show sequences of ploughing, picking, living by the sea and in the countryside. These films have circulated so much that few of them have reached us.
Privileged exchanges take place between two classes, as we mentioned in the introduction, but Freinet preferred from the outset to organise networks in order to include correspondence in learning. "You have a cat, so do I! "I have a little brother and three sisters." We quickly exhausted the subject and lost all motivation! On the other hand, when a series of free texts chosen by a child for a well-defined correspondent, only one designated per class, are sent, but in a network, a real child library is created in each school. The correspondence never stops since each class has about twenty correspondents. This correspondence, called "natural" in the 1970s, is extremely rich. "Do you have any historical evidence near the school? ». "How do you go to school? "What project are you currently working on? ».

If today, in many countries the Posts have lost their reliability, if not totally disappeared, this should not prevent us, by changing the support, from drawing inspiration from experiences that in the past have been rich in lessons. To avoid this problem of lost mail, I personally used the diplomatic pouch, a secure means of correspondence used by consulates and embassies. The law now prohibits it for nondiplomats. But there are exceptions to any law. You are sure not to get anything when you don't insist on it. It is sufficient to have a special agreement between two governments and to accept that the packages be opened to verify that they do not contain weapons or drugs

We can always exchange sound and images. It allows us to know who we are talking to, to get to know each other. Photographic portraits. Portraits painted or drawn. Videograms made with a camera or a simple mobile phone.

We have gradually integrated the progress of electronics and information technology from the telephone, fax, minitel and e-mail to websites. These offer us opportunities that we are still far from having explored. Any class that has a site in the form of a blog, or more elaborate, can share pages with another class or a network of correspondents. Too few use webradios: they are designed to disseminate information from kindergarten onwards, but they can also be used to produce a newspaper together, with several classes.

However, corresponding with others is not the result of exhibitionism but of exchange. The "I love" of facebook seems to me to be to be banished insofar as it is the result of an approach that consists in defining a territory and getting as many people as possible into it without trying to get to know them.

The Internet offers us a new tool to correspond, but also to work together. This is the objective of the Cooperative Virtual Classes (CVCs). We are opening a network for those who wish to learn how to make and study images on all media. Others could host CVCs of journalists analyzing the same event together, as we have done in the past.


A few precautions.

Choosing an appropriate medium with your correspondents and a means of translation is probably the first step to take once you have chosen yourself. However, this is not enough. All the failures that have been reported to us lead us to formulate some rules.

A correspondence established within the school framework must be checked. A closed letter may include racist or abusive language, such as a personal email. Have texts translated when we are not able to understand them, before delivering them to the class. Regardless of the age of the children, ensure that there is content. Once everyone knows which pet owns the other person's family, there is nothing interesting to say to each other.

But first of all, acknowledge receipt and announce your intentions, whatever they may be. "We have received your letter and will reply next month, or only at the end of the year because... "By doing so, you reassure and create an expectation that should not be disappointed. When you have prepared a shipment for several days and you don't know what happened to it, you don't want to continue. Do not forget the gaps between school periods and in particular when exchanging with schools in the southern hemisphere. Do not forget either the time differences in the context of telephone exchanges.

Correspondence using the Internet medium must take into account technical constraints. When the throughput is low, configure your messaging in.txt and not in.html. We will not have a nice presentation, but our interlocutor will be able to read the message. Avoid attachments in emails as well as on a web page. If attached files are accepted, group them together by zipping them (7zip is free) and limit their weight, not to mention testing.

Not everyone has electricity, Europeans repeat to us, thinking "of the poor Africans"! Experience has shown me that a message sent at the same time to a remote African village, and to French, German or Swiss teachers, generally receives a faster response from Africa than from Europe. The most disadvantaged are not the most deprived in terms of imagination and strategies to overcome difficulties. No obstacle can prevent two classes from matching when they are firmly committed to doing so. First, it is enough to agree on the terms and conditions together.