FOTEL: combating Early School Leaving by Forum Theatre


Five organizations from five European countries – Hungary, France, Italy, Spain and Poland – allied to think together about early school leaving and to try to reduce the phenomenon. The project took place in the framework of the European Lifelong Learning Project, Comenius sub-program. In cooperation with local schools between 2012 and 2014 we attempted to uncover the causes of early school leaving. Using the Forum Theatre method they investigated how non-formal education can help to create changes in attitudes in school education.

The Forum Theatre offers a, non-formal learning situation, not teacher-centered, which allows both students and teachers to think more deeply and effectively as they work together through everyday situations, experiences and problems. Participants are able to live through all the aspects, the relevant emotions and considerations around a given topic thanks to the creative, democratic work process. Although the aim of the theatre is to create a performance, in our case the emphasis is on the process. In the course of creating a theatrical performance the group travels a long route during which both the individual and the group is transformed: individuals’ personalities develop, their willingness to express themselves, marginal members of the group find their voice and are integrated; the quality of group work strengthens, members enlarge their educational experience and develop countless skills.
To get a deeper insight to the phenomenon of early school leaving:

This Learning Path contains a lot of exercises of drama and Forum Theatre, used during the project in different countries, among diverse groups of disadvantaged youngsters but for the same aim: to understand better the factors why the students leave the school before finishing it and to try to find common solutions, empowering the youngsters in risk.


General requirements
For a good workshop process we also need to take care of some elements that can affect our work:
Size of the group
Usually we say that the group should vary from 12 to 20-25 people. This size allows the process to develop effectively; everyone can have enough space, there is enough people to have different opinions and it is possible to use all the set of tools in T.O. method.
You need a place that is large enough for the group size, taking into account that the group should move and not remain sitting down. Around 4-6 meters for each person is an adequate space.
Moreover we need a safe place, both in terms of minimizing accident risk and of not to be disturbed from the outside and also where it is possible to make noise without disturbing other people.
It is suggested a length between 1 and 3 hours. Moreover, students could have difficulties to concentrate for a long time even if usually they enjoy the activity.

Appetizer: moments from the process in France


1. Group building and de-mechanization.
Objective of the phase: to create a coherent group and to facilitate communication between the participants of the process. These exercises serve also to build up relationships of trust and a safe space to share feelings and experiences of strong emotional situations and to train body to be open and more sensitive than usual (de-mechanization). Every Forum Theatre process starts with this period that can be longer or shorter, but can not be skipped.

Exercises for group building: step 1.

2. Knots research.
Objective of the phase: to find concrete situations from the daily life of the students that makes the oppression visible and understandable for them. The participants share their previous experiences on oppressive situations and reflect on them with the help of diverse drama games in group and in pairs.

Activities connected to this phase: step 2.

3. Creation of the theatre embryo.
Objective of the phase: to find what is in common among the different participants’ stories or perceptions of the problem. After the common points have been found the group creates together a narrative story and transforms it into a theatrical scene or scenes.

See the connecting activities here: step 3.

4. Cleaning the embryo.
Objective of the phase: to make the scene more clear and deep the exercises aim to approach from diverse angels the situations and characters, in order to make them believable, strong and impacting.

Here you can find the activities: step 4.

5. Performance
Objective of the phase: after creating the scene and developing it in a theatrical way the result can be presented to the community in order to find possible solutions for the oppressive situation shown. At the performance there is a role, called the Joker who mediates between the players and the audience (spec-actors), leads the discussion and facilitates the interventions of the audience.

See here the structure and the script of the Forum Theatre play: step 5.1.

See some exercises to practice the role of the Joker: step 5.2

Moments from the Forum Theatre performance in Budapest:

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