When I say International Falcon Movement – Socialist Educational International it probably doesn’t mean much to you. But perhaps when I say Woodcraft Folk, maybe it does? IFM-SEI is the international global organisation bringing together Woodcraft Folk and other like-minded educational youth movements around the globe.
IFM-SEI is only a couple of decades younger than the Labour Party and was established when members from the Socialist International decided they wanted a socialist alternative to mainstream education for children and young people. While historically many IFM-SEI founding organisations have strong links to socialist and social democratic parties, the organisation has evolved greatly over the years since its establishment in 1922 to encompass a wider network of non-formal educational youth organisations educating with the socialist principles of solidarity, democracy, equality, social justice, freedom, environmentalism and anti-capitalism.
IFM-SEI brings together around 50 organisations worldwide divided into five regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. Our member organisations aim to empower children and young people to take an active role in society and fight for their rights. Our MOs are unique in that they are child and youth-led; children and young people are active decision-makers and involved in the implementation of their own educational programmes. This is one of the two things that sets IFM-SEI organisations apart from other youth groups. The second is related to the educational approach. IFM-SEI believes that there is no such thing as ‘neutral’ education; all education – including national curricula – is biased towards a certain viewpoint. IFM-SEI is open about educating children and young people in a particular way, in line with our aims and principles – we call this socialist education. We believe socialist education fosters the develop of young people who are critical thinkers and question the status quo, who stand up against the flawed, unequal society in which we live.
Our member organisations are incredibly diverse. Some focus more on certain aims and principles and others tackle all areas more broadly. Some are led exclusively for young people by young people and others are family-based organisations. Some have regular group night sessions working with the same set of children or young people each week and some work with different people in each activity. What brings us together is that we want an alternative for our children and young people; we do not want to accept the current world in which we live and we want to educate for social change. Alternative education of children is vital to challenge the prejudices people develop at such a young age, as products of our society. This is why we want to reach out to more children and young people. If you’re a young person, you can join your local IFM-SEI organisation (and then participate in a huge range of international activities IFM-SEI offers). If you’re a guardian, carer or parent, we urge you to bring along your children to your local IFM-SEI group. Anyone can volunteer locally too, which is vital to ensuring a unique educational experience can be offered to greater numbers of children and young people. We are confident that one day we can look forward to a world that is more equal, just and accepting of all. First we need to educate.
Carly Walker-Dawson is the Secretary General of the International Falcon Movement − Socialist Educational International (IFM-SEI). Originally from North Tyneside, her work in international education and politics movements has taken her around Europe. She now resides in Brussels and has been living there since September 2016.