Kurt Hahn

Founder of UWC Movement


Kurt Hahn was a German educator, who started his career as a politician. During WWI Hahn worked in the German Department for Foreign Affairs, analysing English newspapers and advising the Foreign Office. He spent time as private secretary to Prince Max von Baden, the last imperial Chancellor of Germany.

After WWII Hahn became a protagonist for international school reform and limited his political activities. In the course of time, Hahn expanded his repertory and at the end of the 1930s, he had created an educational system which went beyond the usual methods and aims of school reform. He called it “experiential therapy”.

Hahn's educational philosophy was based on the respect for adolescents, whom he believed to possess an innate decency and moral sense, but who were, he believed, corrupted by society as they aged. He believed that education could prevent this corruption, if students were given opportunities for personal leadership and to see the results of their own actions. Later on Hahn established a series of schools and programs worldwide which had “experiential therapy” as a common basis, UWC being one of these projects.

However much he had accomplished, at the end of his life Hahn was not satisfied with his work. What grieved him most was the fact that he was not able to convince the German ministers of education to establish public all-day schools in social conflict areas – after all, he argued, it is the undeniable duty of the public school system to absorb and compensate the deficiencies of the modern family and society as far as possible. Nowadays in Germany there are public schools which have included in their program “services” which care for young immigrants, the elderly and the environment.