Free Learning

What is distinctive about learning at Dulwich? Like all good schools, we ensure that we prepare our pupils well for public examinations – results do matter – but we do not believe that “teaching to the test” should define a Dulwich education.  

We believe that there are ideas to interrogate and knowledge to be found beyond syllabuses to which our pupils should be introduced, early and often; these will serve to enhance and complement the formal curriculum and provide a path to enjoyable lifelong learning.

So what is Free Learning? It is learning that extends beyond and is free from a syllabus and free from examination, and that challenges pupils to think for themselves. It is fed by intellectual curiosity, often supported by the interest and enthusiasm of a teacher or peer-mentor.

Free learning is often interdisciplinary in nature; it breaks through the compartmentalisation of learning that subject syllabuses can impose. It allows the possibility of failure, from which pupils can learn important lessons. It is about making connections, challenging what we know and about learning how to avoid following the herd in an unquestioning and accepting way.

This type of learning is not new to us. Every year there is a Free Learning Week that takes a different focus centred around a particular theme or discipline. Dulwich Creative (led by our Art and Design department) was followed by Dulwich Inventive (organised by our scientists), Dulwich Linguistic and Dulwich Political. In 2019, to celebrate our 400th anniversary, the theme was ‘Make Your Mark’ and free learning was placed at the heart of a Dulwich Olympiad which saw 700 students from our internationals schools join us for a week of intellectual, cultural and sporting engagement.

Under lockdown in Spring 2020 we launched Thinking About, a series of live online lectures with Q&As for students in Years 11 and above with guests from the Arts, Sciences and Humanities. Thinking About is a partnership between Dulwich College and Southwark Schools’ Learning Partnership (SSLP ), bringing together pupils from 13 state schools and four independent schools across or adjacent to the borough and offering an opportunity to listen and talk to experts sharing exclusive insights into their professional lives.

We study free learners in history who have made their mark and look to inspire the free learners of the present to challenge their peers, their communities and their teachers.

Please explore the many different aspects of Free Learning (by using the tabs on the left) enjoyed by all the boys across the College.

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