The Swedish National Council of Adult Education

The Swedish National Council of Adult Education (Folkbildningsrådet) is an NGO tasked with distributing national public grants to the adult education associations and folk high schools.

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This is a task and authority delegated to us by the Swedish Government and the Swedish Parliament. Our objectives include budgetary documentation, annual reports and quality control. We also evaluate the effects of folkbildning and report back to the government. Every year we release several reports and studies on how study circles and courses at folk high schools help to advance society.

The secretariat of the Swedish National Council of Adult Education is located in Stockholm. 

Public funding and how it works

Folkbildning is a crucial factor in the continued evolution of Swedish society. Since the end of the 19th century, study circles and folk high schools have helped shape this country into a vibrant and robust democracy. Today, the adult education associations and folk high schools serve as part of the foundation for Sweden’s democratic tapestry, providing citizens with lifelong learning opportunities. For folkbildning to work, however, it must be allowed to change and evolve based on the needs and ideas of the people. Folkbildning will not work if the terms of funding are too rigid or if the goals are predetermined. For this very reason, the Swedish state only has four requirements for its funding, roughly translated below:

  • State-funded folkbildning strengthens and develops Swedish democracy.
  • State-funded folkbildning makes it possible for a diversity of people to participate in society and gain authority over their personal lives.
  • State-funded folkbildning helps bridge the educational gap, by raising the level of education and the level of cultural awareness in society. 
  • State-funded folkbildning creates interest in cultural activities and motivates people to express themselves creatively.

If an activity organised by an adult education association or a folk high school can be seen as doing one or several of these things, then it is eligible for funds. Every year, the Swedish state designates several billion kronor towards folkbildning. It is then up to us, the Swedish National Council of Adult Education, to distribute the funds and to divide them among the various adult education associations and folk high schools. Our terms, regulations and guidelines ensure that the funding is distributed correctly; and we verify the legitimacy of all approved activities through meticulous controls as well as via random checks. With the four state requirements as our cornerstone, we set goals and provide instructions for all state-funded folkbildning. And so in that sense, we act as a national authority.

How the council is organised

The Swedish National Council of Adult Education operates under the direction of the Swedish Government and the Swedish Parliament, while at the same time maintaining a certain degree of freedom as an NGO. Furthermore, the Swedish National Council of Adult Education is also subject to the wills of our member organisations. Our board consists of independently selected experts, researchers and societal representatives. It is the board and the board alone that decides on grant applications from new folk high schools and adult education associations.

At the Swedish National Council of Adult Education, we have three member organisations that represent different stakeholders from the world of folkbildning:

  • The Swedish Adult Education Association (SAEA) is the interest organisation for the 9 adult education associations.
  • RIO represents the folk high schools operated by organisations, associations sand societies.
  • The Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR) represents local government entities across Sweden.

Together, the member organisations give voice to all entities eligible to receive national public funding for folkbildning, guaranteeing that the bureaucracy and frameworks for dissemination are fair and balanced. You can read more about RIO on the page The folk high schools and about SAEA on the page The study associations linked below.