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Institución Libre de Enseñanza

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Institución Libre de Enseñanza

La Institución Libre de Enseñanza (ILE) or The Free Educational Institution was an educational project that developed in Spain for the half a century of about 1876–1936. The institute was inspired by the philosophy of Krausism which was first introduced to the Complutense University of Madrid by Julián Sanz del Río, and which (despite being subsequently ejected from that university) had a significant impact on the renovation of the intellectual life within the Spanish culture of the time.


The institution was founded in 1876 by a group of disaffected university professors including Francisco Giner de los Ríos, Gumersindo Azcarate, Teodoro Sainz Rueda and Nicolás Salmerón among others who distanced themselves from the main university campus of Madrid to achieve academic freedom. They declined to adjust their teaching to any official religious dogma or the moral and political imposition of the time. Consequently, they had to continue their educational work outside the state sector by creating a secular private educational institution, starting with university level instruction and later extending their activities to primary and secondary education.

They supported and seconded the intellectual ideas of Joaquín Costa, Leopoldo Alas (Clarín), José Ortega y Gasset, Gregorio Marañón, Ramón Menéndez Pidal, Antonio Machado, Joaquín Sorolla, Augusto González Linares, Santiago Ramón y Cajal and Federico Rubio, among others who were involved in educational, cultural and social renewal.


Following the implementation of the political model of Antonio Cánovas del Castillo whose idea was to secure a fundamentalist nation as ordained by the divine will, which project was to be implemented in 1875 by "Royal Decree issued by education minister Manuel Orovio Echagüe. This regulation severely limited academic freedom in Spain "if it went against the tenets of faith" meaning the contemporary and deeply conservative (Roman Catholicism in Spain).

From 1881, these professors migrated to the independent ILE and were to train Manuel Bartolomé Cossio, who was to succeed Giner in leading the institution, as well as Ricardo Rubio, Pedro Blanco Suárez, Angel do Rego, Joseph Ontañón Arias, Pedro Jiménez-Landi, among many others who nurtured the project.

Such alumni ensured a future in which the institution became the foremost Spanish cultural epicenter promoting the most advanced contemporary educational and scientific theories from around the world until finally it was stalled by the Spanish Civil War in 1936 following which all such progressive education was destroyed by the ultra-conservative Francoist regime.

The list of contributors published in The Bulletin of the Free Institution of Education included Bertrand Russell, Henri Bergson, Charles Darwin, John Dewey, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Miguel de Unamuno, Montessori, Leo Tolstoy, H. G. Wells, Rabindranath Tagore, Juan Ramón Jiménez, Gabriela Mistral, Benito Perez Galdos, Emilia Pardo Bazán, Azorin Eugenio d'Ors or Ramón Pérez de Ayala, some of them closely linked to the institution, such as Julián Sanz del Río, Demófilo and children Antonio Machado and Manuel Machado, Julio Rey Pastor, Constancio Bernaldo de Quirós, Luis Simarro, Nicholas Achúcarro, Francisco Barnes Salinas or Portuguese Alice Pestana.

The ILE began to critically investigate the Spanish past, and from it emerged the Center for Historical Studies led by the founder of the Spanish philological school, Ramón Menéndez Pidal as well as contact centers for artistic and scientific elites with the European avant-garde movement, notably the Residencia de estudiantes led by Alberto Jiménez Fraud) and the Junta para la Ampliación de Estudios (Board for Advanced Studies and Scientific Research), organized by José Castillejo.

The poetical movement Generation of '27 was, in a way, an emanation of the ILE intended to attain Spanish cultural and scientific harmony with Europe shortly before modernization was halted by the Spanish Civil War, after which all progressive educational assets were confiscated and its proponents into exile by Francoist Spain. Those who remained faced censorship, persecution and ridicule, as it was considered unpatriotic and antihispánic by their detractors. Abroad, exiles were dispersed throughout Europe and Latin America, moving to different countries and thus cross-fertilizing the cultural and progressive ideas throughout the western world.

Following the Spanish transition to democracy about 1978, when the legal process of recovering the legacy of the institution began, ILE funds have been managed by the Fundación Francisco Giner de los Ríos created for that purpose.

Modern Influence of the ILE

The influence of the ILE was instrumental in getting the transitional Spanish government to undertake a series of reforms that were needed in the legal, educational and social fields. Agencies such as The National Pedagogical Museum and The Board for Advanced Scientific Studies and Research were created, whose task was to send students to study on scholarship abroad.

The Center for Historical Studies mentioned above, together with The National Institute of Physics and Natural Science and la Residencia de Estudiantes, established in Calle Pinar, Madrid, became hotbeds of writers and artists and where Albert Einstein gave lectures in Spain in 1923.

Attempts at educational reform crystallized between 1907–1936 via pioneering initiatives such as the School Institute, school holiday camps, the International Summer School at the University of Santander as well as various educational missions which operated under the auspices of the Second Spanish Republic in order to disseminate education and culture in remote and rural settlements throughout Spain

About a year after his death in 1915 followers of Francisco Giner de los Ríos established a foundation bearing his name to ensure the continuity of the ILE and pursue its educational objectives. This Foundation published the Complete Works of Francisco Giner, between 1916 and 1936.

There are still schools that are linked to the current Foundation Giner de los Ríos, and continue to provide, with certain variations, the educational model of the ILE. So, include the Colegio Estudio, founded in 1940 by Jimena Menéndez Pidal, Angels Gasset and Carmen Garcia Right, which helped to educate known Spanish intellectuals and politicians; later also similar private institutions emerged, like Colegio Base and Colegio Estilo. Colegio Estilo was founded in 1959 by Spanish writer Josefina Aldecoa.

Fingoy Projects

One of the more curious effects of the ILE is the College Fingoy in the city of Lugo, which was founded in the teeth of Filangist opposition in 1950 by Antonio Fernández López , a businessman and philanthropist of Galicia, with intention to develop the ideas of the Free Institution of Education in Franco's Spain.

Antonio Fernández López had experienced the Residencia de estudantes sponsored by The Board of Advanced Studies in Madrid during the nineteen twenties and thirties. Returning to his native Galicia, he decided to promote a study center with the same principles in the city of Lugo for the education of his 12 children as well as his siblings Manuel and Conchita.

College Fingoy was only the second mixed (boys + girls) school to be opened in Franco's Spain and the agriculture classes, theater, music and dance were held the Galician language. during the early years it was led by Ricardo Carvalho Calero, a university professor and Galician intellectual who was victimized by the Franco regime.

College Fingoy also featured class intellectuals and Galician artists such as the poet Xosé Luís Méndez Ferrín, former President of the Royal Galician Academy, Bernardino Grana or painter Pacios. He also created the Center for Studies and experience Fingoy the Barreiros Farm, governed by the same ILE principles.

Promotion of the ILE

The initiation was mainly due to the men who, in one way or another gathered around Giner after his return to the University in 1881, followinghis expulsion of 1875. These included : Manuel Bartolomé Cossio, Joaquín Costa, Leopoldo Alas (Clarín), Alfredo Calderon, Eduardo Soler, Messia Jacinto Adolfo Posada, Pedro Dorado Montero, Aniceto Sela, Rafael Altamira, and others.

Second phase

Giner called the acolytes of the ILE his "children" who included Julian Besteiro, Pedro Corominas, José Manuel Pedregal, Martin Navarro Flores, Constancio Bernaldo Quiros, Manuel and Antonio Machado, Domingo Barnés, José Castillejo, Gonzalo Jimenez de la Espada, Luis de Zulueta Fernando de los Rios, and others.

Third phase

Those born between 1880 and 1890, are recognized as the "grandchildren" of Giner; usually mentioned among the star pupils are José Pijoán, Juan Ramón Jiménez, Francisco Ribera Pastor, José Ortega y Gasset, Américo Castro, Gregorio Marañón Manuel García Morente, Lorenzo Luzuriaga, Paul Azcarate, Alberto Jiménez Fraud, etc.


The founding 200 shareholders abandoned first proposed ILE headquarters in the Paseo de la Castellana since occupied by the Military School and rented instead an apartment in Calle Esparteros 9, (currently renumbered as Nº. 11), and subsequently relocated to Infantas Nº. 42 before moving again th Paseo del Oblisco Nº. 8 (since 1914 known as Paseo del General Martínez Campos Nº.14 & Nº16)

The building block included a garden, in what was then the outskirts of Madrid, and was much more suited to the educational concept of the institution. In 1908 the site was further developed with the construction of "Pavilion Giner" and "Soler Hall."

At the time of the Spanish Civil War The building was heavily damaged and looted, and even underwent a symbolic destruction of trees by a group of Falangist extremist thugs (only a century old acacia and privet were saved). In 1940 the site was seized and attached to the Ministry of Education, refitted (1942) and reopened (1945) as "School Group Joaquin Sorolla" (close to the present Sorolla Museum). After 1955 its premises were used as headquarters of the School Food Service.

After the Transition, the facility was briefly opened as the "Eduardo Marquina National College" (1980–1985); but was finally allocated to the Free Institution of Education in 1982. Recent rehabilitation reforms have meant that the ILE now has state-of-the-art buildings


Institución Libre de Enseñanza Wikipedia