Converging forces: social movements and the origins of permanent education policy in francophone Belgium

Kai A. Heidemann*, Pablo Del Hierro

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This article looks at how social movements in francophone Belgium shaped the institutional contours of adult education ‘from below’. It focuses on the integral role played by progressive social movements in the creation of a regional state-based system of adult education in 1976, known as the Service de l’Éducation Permanente (SdEP). Blending historical and sociological methods, it is shown that the SdEP emerged when a movement-based legacy of popular education initially forged as an extension of the labour movement in the francophone community during the late nineteenth century converged with new sets of movement-based actors and ideas emanating from a contentious wave of youth- and student-led protest around 1968. Additional insight is also given into a series of political processes that empowered the efforts of social movement actors working in the field of adult education: regionalisation and Europeanisation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-55
Number of pages24
JournalHistory of Education
Issue number1
Early online dateNov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2023


  • Adult education
  • education policy
  • popular education
  • social movements
  • Belgium

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