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                                 International Youth

Leader Education
Danish Folk High Schools * 


* The Folk High School concept is a typical feature of Danish cultural tradition. The schools are folk academies or popular universities with no exams as priority is given to holistic education.


The Danish Folk High Schools are part of the 150-year old Folk High School Movement. “School for life” was the idea of the Danish poet, priest and politician, N.F.S. Grundtvig. He formulated the philosophy that led to the Folk High Schools. In contrast to other mentors in the beginning of the 19th century, he treated his students as independent persons with whom even mentors could engage in mutually fruitful conversations. In his opinion, the exchange of ideas that takes place during a conversation was the most important principle of education. Today, some 80 schools offer this alternative and supplement to the official educational system. 






The member organisations of International Sport and Culture Association (ISCA) are primarily voluntary based non-governmental organisations. To many of these organisations, non-formal education and leadership training is essential to the development and the implementation of their activities. In this regard, the educational part is very essential at a national level within the organisations. Having international collaboration as a member of ISCA, a group of ISCA member organisations developed the idea of putting the non-formal educational practise into an international context, both to develop the educational opportunities and to strengthen international collaboration. 


International Youth Leader Education


The rapid development of the international co-operations is of great importance to the context in which leisure, sports and youth activities take place. Therefore a great need of intercultural training and education of youth leaders at an international level has been created.

The youth leaders of today must be capable of working from an international perspective - and this is why the International Sport and Culture Association took the initiative to create the International Youth Leader Education programme.


The International Youth Leader Education is a non-formal education programme with the aim of contributing to the educational process of young people from all over the world to be youth leaders in voluntary association in their respective countries. It is a 4 month course with focus on voluntary leadership, democracy, voluntary work as a tool for social change, community based activities, intercultural understanding and citizenship.


The International Youth Leader Education uses sport, youth, social and cultural activities as a tool for developing the personal skills of the youth leader. It gives the youth leaders of the future the opportunity to draw international inspiration, which can be translated to both, activities under local/national conditions and cooperation at an international level in the field of youth activities, as leisure, sport, social and cultural activities.


The International Youth Leader Education alternates between theoretical youth leadership education and practical social, sport and cultural activities. Both the theoretical and the practical part focus on the main objective; developing youth leaders who are capable of using sport, youth, social and youth activities as tool for development and social integration, community based activities and intercultural understanding. 


On the Horizon


Since the beginning in 1996, 380 students from all over the world have attended the programme. About 40 students are admitted into Danish Folk High Schools every year, and it is the vision of ISCA that the programme can be transferred to other parts of the world to give more young people the opportunity to acquire valuable tools for voluntary leadership and experience personal growth.

Non-formal education


The notion of non-formal education has been a significant feature of policy debates around education for the last three decades. It has drawn attention to the importance and potential of education, learning and training that take place outside recognized educational institutions. If one comments that if we try to correlate the flourishing of non-formal education and political change then the last three decades can certainly be described as the decade of non-formal education.


Non-formal education includes any organised educational activity outside the established formal system - whether operating separately or as an important feature of some broader activity - that is intended to serve identifiable learning clientele and learning objectives.


Based on the learner’s personal motivation, the concept of informal education is at the heart of initiatives such as community work, youth building sites, social work and voluntary service, whether at local, national or international level. The experience acquired by participants in youth building sites in other countries is not part of any official curriculum, but it nonetheless meets specific educational objectives, notably relating to cross-cultural learning. Moreover, the projects leaders are trained and experienced in working with young people.


In the programmes and initiatives for young people sponsored by the Council of Europe and the European Union, the term ‘non-formal education’ also implies a community-added value. Indeed, the international dimension of these projects is guaranteed by the involvement of partners of different origins and cultures. In addition to values like teamwork and practical knowledge related to the type of project undertaken, the political foundations inherent in modern society construction – democracy, human rights, tolerance and solidarity — are very much present. The participation of numerous young people in voluntary projects in other countries reinforces young people’s commitment to and involvement in building inclusive and participative societies. The thousands of personal contacts made across the countries involved in the programmes will contribute significantly to the foundation of a human world rich with interpersonal contacts that go well beyond cultural differences. 



Non-Formal Education


Key words:


  • On a voluntary basis
  • Structured / planned process
  • Follow learning theories
  • Can be evaluated
  • Carried out by qualified actors
  • Learner centred
  • Non-hierarchical in nature
  • Holistic approach – “hand, heart, head learning”
  • Recognized learning experience
  • Not informal learning




Experiential Learning Circle



Making experiences





    Applying                                   Reflecting









Target group


The target group of the International Youth Leader Education takes account of the thousands of voluntary association leaders who are engaged in leisure, sport, youth, culture and social activities. Young people from all over the world can participate in the International Youth Leader Education. The diversity is the strength! 


Participant profile


To apply for the programme, candidates must be able to speak English at a reasonable level as most teaching is in English as it is the ‘working’ language. They have to be involved in voluntary work in their home country and must have some experience with training and, finally, they have to be endorsed by a youth organisation. Above all, the students must have an open mind as they will experience challenges for both mind and body during the four- or eight- months course.


Overall criteria:

Student must:

§         be between 18-30 of age

§         be intrinsically motivated

§         communicate well in English, both spoken and written

§         learn to co-operate in international teams

§         play an active role in a NGO at a local, regional or national level, preferably with leadership experience

§         want to develop own social qualifications in an international context

§         take an interest in civil society development

§         be interested and preferably active within Sport and Culture

§         be committed to the social development of young people in their area of work

§         be committed to the course for the full duration

§         be supported by an organisation


Application & Selection process


Information material about the project and application forms are distributed to NGOs, member organisations of ISCA (154) and to former participants (380). ISCA, former students and previous sending organisations inform about the programme. Beside the application from the applicant, the sending organisations should write an endorsement letter and the applicant should also include a personal letter describing his/her motivation, interests and expectations.


A selection panel composed by Folk High School and ISCA representatives will select participants, based on their respective application and in observation of the above-mentioned criteria. 




  • "This was an experience I will never forget - and I will try to use everything I have learnt" - Gloria, Chile.


  • "Besides being the experience of my life, I could check that the nicest educational theories are not just an utopia" - Cillas, Spain.


  • "The youth leader Education has given me the possibility of creating sport for all activities where everybody can participate. And that is really needed" - Helge, Estonia.


  • “I really like the idea of ISCA – I think this is the way of life for young people” -
    Vania, Bulgaria.


  • “Education in outdoor life was very interesting. I learnt a lot which is very useful for the African environment” - Richard, Ghana.


  • “I consider my time at Ollerup the best thing I have ever done in my life. It was like a dream for me. I learned a lot, I changed my conception in terms of life and I learned that I can do something to help my country like everyone who really wants to do that” - Ana, Brazil. 

The majority of the students mention in their evaluation that it has been an experience for life. They have received and contributed to an education far away from previous experiences. They have developed as human beings, taken responsibilities for themselves and their fellow-students and learned how to use sport and cultural activities to develop local community activities as well as international cooperation. 




The learning objective is to develop a sense of space and place in contemporary global society, the skills required to be active agents for change and development, and the knowledge required to make informed choices within this context.


Aim of the International Youth Leader Education


The aim of IYLE is to support the personal development of youth leaders by extending their competencies to integrate elements of IYLE in their projects and practice and support their role as multipliers with young people.


The purpose of the programme is many-sided:


§         To give future youth leaders the opportunity to draw inspiration transferable to activities under local conditions.

§         To empower and support the work of international associations through specific training activities, thereby contributing to increased democratisation and social involvement in international relations.

§         To stimulate the international co-operation within the fields of youth and sports activities through training projects aimed at the development of joint projects and exchange activities, etc.

§         To use sport and cultural activities as tools for social change.

§         To support all activities and actions of the European “YOUTH” programme.

§         To acquire a feeling and an understanding for group processes.

§         To build effective learning environments by using interactive methods and experimental learning.

§         To be able to design and implement the methods necessary for national and international training activities for youth leaders.

§         To acquire social competences.

§         To acquire knowledge on the realities of youth work.

§         To create an interest in civil society development with the intention of becoming active citizens. 


“Promote active citizenship and civil society by giving impetus to the training of youth leaders working within an NGO dimension”. 




The training modules will be based on the principles and practice of non-formal education in youth leader training, as they have been developed and implemented by ISCA and Danish Folk High School as well as in other training contexts. Therefore, the modules will:


§         be based on the intrinsic motivation of the learner;

§         generally not imply the control of individual learning achievement;

§         be learner-centred and based on the experiences of participants;

§         be based on a personal responsibility for learning, supported by a strong group dimension and a collective approach;

§         enable participants to apply and transfer their new knowledge and experiences to their youth work practice;

§         take into account the needs and motivation of participants and be open to regular feed-back and evaluations;

§         be documented to gain a maximum multiplying effect.



Non-formal education practice is the fundament of education within voluntary youth organisations. The non-formal education is the instrument of developing youth leaders in voluntary associations and thereby it is the instrument of reaching and involving thousands of young people in activities organised by youth leaders.



The teaching methods within the non-formal education idea are based on dialogue, meaning that everybody should contribute to the learning process. The course alternates between theoretical and practical sessions. Some of the practical lessons can be conducted when the students take over teaching in local schools, clubs or at international youth gatherings. It also alternates between discussion and visits. 


Although we are in the field of social, sport and cultural activities, we see that more and more educational activities can benefit from using Information Technology. The instrument of the Internet and e-mails are very useful in many projects and evident for a future youth leader.


Some of the students are very familiar with the IT others are not. We estimate that we have to include this more in future projects in such a way that we secure those who are not familiar with IT learn how to use, and that those who are very skilled users get new challenges. This requires development of both hardware and teaching capacity from our side.



When society changes, educational practices have to change too


The context of voluntary work is constantly changing. Local contexts are changing as well as the global context. In the same way, the practical reality of youth leaders are changing.

To support the changing context and reality of youth work, youth education programmes have to be developed constantly and it is our task to be at the foreground and provide non-governmental organisations with examples of best practices within non-formal education and training.


Forms of teaching & studying


§         Local training

§         E-learning

§         Community learning

§         Individual and collective project work

§         Networking

§         In-service education community

§         Practical experience




Participants, project partners and the educational partners are involved in the evaluation process. The participants are involved in mid-term and final evaluation. The educational partners as well as the recruiting partners conduct the evaluation. In practice, it is oral and written evaluations from the students. The evaluation together with the educational partners is conducted at an evaluation meeting, along with written reports focusing on general evaluation of the group and successes and failures. 




We try to involve former students in other international youth activities. In 2002, they were invited to take part in an International Youth Camp in Leipzig, Germany, and generally all ISCA activities such as festivals, camps, trainings and seminars are open to them.


Based on the experience of the International Youth Leader Education, we were running a pilot project with the task of investigating the possibilities of using International Youth Leader Education and creating NGO grass root activities as part of the peace and stability process in South East Europe. 




The education focuses on voluntary leadership in voluntary associations, democracy and voluntary work as a tool of social change and intercultural understanding. It uses sport, youth and cultural activities for developing the personal skills of the youth leaders. The idea is that the students upon return to their home countries make use of their newly acquired skills in organizing sporting and cultural activities, thus developing social work in voluntary associations, be it locally, regionally or nationally.


The International Youth Leader Education programme gives youth leaders both an overall education and a transverse leader education in sports and youth activities within an international scope. 


The education itself alternates between theory and practical lessons. The programme contains a unique concentration on a variety of elements:


§         Intercultural understanding

§         Intercultural learning

§         Intercultural leadership training and voluntary associations

§         Norms and values

§         Minorities, social exclusion and the fight against racism, xenophobia and intolerance

§         National identity and minorities

§         Sport as a tool of social inclusion

§         Project planning and management

§         Environmental awareness raising

§         Leadership and organizational management within international settings

§         Exchange and voluntary service

§         Training for the effective implementation of youth projects

§         Advocacy for youth issues and concerns

§         NGO and civil society development

§         Democracy and civil society

§         Participation of young people in discussions of their own concern

§         Community design

§         Physiology and training 


Some key content information


Global dimension


The International Youth Leader Education focuses on sport and culture as means of integration and trans-national understanding and the processes of integration. The European dimension gives the students knowledge about voluntary work in different countries as well as voluntary work in an international context. The International Youth Leader Education looks upon the voluntary work from an international perspective and prepares the youth leaders to plan, carry out and evaluate both local, regional, national and international youth projects.


The International Youth Leader Education introduces community action programmes in the youth field. The students are encouraged to take part in exchange programmes after the International Youth Leader Education, and through the voluntary associations of the International Sport and Culture Association we have established host projects for the youth leaders to continue their youth leader work.



§         Global dimension of youth and sport

§         Opportunities of youth and sport

§         Community action programme for youth and sport

§         Intercultural understanding

§         International Voluntary Service

§         International sport and culture organisations 


Voluntary work and voluntary associations


The voluntary work is based on the values and development of local fellowship. It includes individuals, families, associations, etc. and is based on human values. The voluntary work and voluntary associations are a strong part of the social capacity of society. The International Youth Leader Education introduces and discusses the idea and opportunities of voluntary work in an international context.


The International Youth Leader Education focuses on models and practical examples of associations, aims, leadership, management, members and activities.

During the education, the students are in charge of management of a "school project” where the students are responsible for sport and youth activities, events, culture-evenings, etc.



§         The idea of voluntary work

§         Voluntary associations

§         Creation and management of an own “school project” 




The roots of democracy in classical Greek states and political thinkers like Platon, Aristoteles and Socrates are introduced. Democracy has taken many forms from ancient Greece to modern societies and a common concept is not yet established, but some values are fundamental such as Universal Declaration of Human Rights, etc.


The International Youth Leader Education focuses on the students’ own experience of different ways of democracy. By exchanging “life stories”, the students discover other cultures, values and traditions and the different ways a basic concept of democracy is lived in our different countries. The “life stories” and personal experiences form the basis of discussions of civil society as the sphere where fundamental values of democracy are internalised by living an everyday life.



§         Democracy and civil society

§         Democracy as a way of life

-          personal experiences with democracy as a concept in daily life

-          personal experiences in associations

§         The roots of democracy and democracy today

§         National identities and minorities

§         Sport as a peacekeeping instrument 


Youth, Sport and Leadership


The values in sport and in culture change from country to country and from region to region as well as from time to time. We will analyse different values in sport and culture due to: history, tradition, social and geographical background. Fair play, moral and ethics in sport and culture will become important elements of the discussion.

The link between sport and games will be illustrated through the work with children's play in different age groups. We will discuss the theory and practice of play and games. Why are we playing? The rules in play compared to rules in sport. Play as an important part of the personal development of children.


We practice the principles for organising sport and different teaching methods and different ways of coaching. We discuss different ways to perform leadership in sport; the authoritarian leader; the democratic leader, the laissez-faire leader.



§         Values in youth, sport and cultural activities

§         Identity and personal development

§         Play, games and sport

§         Fair Play, moral and ethics in sport

§         Youth leadership


Cultural activities and social exchange

Culture shows the daily life and the interests by human beings. Culture is an ongoing debate about life - our personal life, life in local area or global life. Culture makes changes and eternal negotiation.

During the International Youth Leader Education the students experience different cultures, history and languages as a way of world-wide understanding.


Cultural expressions and impressions are a central part of the daily life at the International Youth Leader Education both at the school and life experiences.

We organise a study-trip to the capital of Denmark, Copenhagen, for visiting museums, the Parliament, meeting with GOs and NGOs, as well as companies, municipalities and schools/universities in the local region.



§         International cultures

§         Different ways of cultural expressions

§         Performances, rituals and workshops

§         Visits and excursions



Leadership and management

As a final part of the International Youth Leader Education programme, the students prepare a personal youth project. The students develop and plan a youth, sport or cultural project to present and implement after returning home. It is very important that this process leads to a project with realistic aims and objectives in such a way that the project can be implemented.

The students will prepare all different elements in the project such as activity, venue, budget and fundraising.



§         Project planning

§         Project management

§         Project fundraising


Presentation of International Sport and Culture Association

International Sport and Culture Association is an international association with member organisations from five continents: Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and Latin America. At the moment representing more than 22 million individual members. International Sport and Culture Association is open to all interested and relevant entities, primarily non-governmental organisations.


The objectives of ISCA are primarily:

  • to promote an understanding between people across borders through sports and cultural activities.
  • to stress the view of sport as bearer of local, regional or national cultural identity and thereby placing at in the centre of international exchanges of ideas, views and cultural expressions.
  • to encourage the broadest possible participation in sporting and cultural activities among all affiliated members.  

After-Course skills


The International Youth Leader Education empowers participants to:

  • Take pro-active initiatives in their local community
  • To organise and lead youth activities
  • To be youth experts to their organisations

§         To make international contacts

§         To co-operate within the international youth and sports field

§         To use sport and cultural activities as tools for social change

§         To acquire a feeling and an understanding for group processes

§         To transfer social competences 


Financial Conditions


The cost of the IYLE programme is about 20.400.-DKK (2.720.-€) for the complete course.

§         If you are accepted in this programme, you will in reality receive a grant, which includes classes, free lodgings and meals.

§         You will have to take care of your travel expenses and pocket money. Travel expenses also include domestic transport in Denmark.

§         Finally, there will be a smaller payment for paper, folders, photocopying and a songbook - approximately DKK 700,00 (95 Euro). You can reduce this specific payment a little (only a little) by bringing paper for writing on as well one or two folders.


Expenses to be covered:

International travel expenses

Up to participants

IYLE programme cost, total

20.400.- DKK (unless covered by grant)

Pocket money

Depends on personal needs, but around 1500 DKK per month is recommended

Domestic travel expenses

App. DKK 1000,00

Paper, folders, songbook, etc.

App. DKK 700,00




It is very important that ISCA continues to be in a position to offer an international youth leader training programme to future leaders in our member organisations. We would, therefore, very much like to invite YOU to take part in the development of new educational projects as we wish to involve some our partners in the development as well as in the running of the project. For instance, some of the courses could be held by resource persons in your organisation with skills in that direction or the courses could take place somewhere outside Denmark.


We feel we have a good case. Over the past five years, we have gained some valuable experience and knowledge in this field. Many national and international organisations, institutions and foundations tend to focus primarily on non-formal education for young people. It is therefore our hope that we – by joining forces - can develop new education and training projects. 


“Education can function as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation and it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” 

Paulo Freire

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Contact: jolee@suwon.ac.kr / Professor Lee, Jong-Young  
College of Physical Education Suwon University, Wauri, Bongdam-Eup, Hwa-Sung City, Gyunggi-Do, South Korea
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