Gösta Vestlund is considered the ”Grand Old Man” of popular adult education in Sweden. Born in 1913, his life and work is the story of the development of the Swedish society. His lifelong dedication has been to strengthen and develop popular adult education at home and internationally. His lectures were considered inspiring and challenged his students, both young and old, by focusing on future possibilities.
Vestlund has worked as a teacher at three folk high schools and was involved in starting two new ones: Tollare Folk High School (1952), owned by the temperance movement, and Gysinge Folk High School (1982), owned by an organization of seniors. In 1952, he became the first principal of Tollare Folk High School. Vestlund was one of the key persons behind the planning of the Teacher Training College for folk high schools in Linköping, he was the first chairman of the organization for research in the field of popular adult education, and he initiated a national project aiming at giving new pedagogical ideas to the folk high schools. After a long period as inspector for the folk high schools at the Ministy of Education and Research, he was appointed consellor for educational affairs in 1966.
Vestlund was an investigator and consellor for the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) in planning and starting Folk Developing Colleges (FDC) in Tanzania. He worked in cooperation with the Ministry of Community Development and the Institute of Adult Education in Dar es Salaam from 1976 to 1977. Today, there are 55 active FDCs providing courses for adults in agriculture, cooking, sewing, carpentry, leadership and more. After returning to Sweden, he led an exchange program for principals and teachers of FDCs in Tanzania and folk high schools in Sweden.
Vestlund has written more than 20 books and essays. In 1949, he wrote a book about the pleasure of work, which had a great impact on the organization of Swedish working life and served as the main material for many study circles. In 1984, he received an honrary doctorate from the University of Linköping in Sweden and in 2006 he was given Illis Quorum, the highest award that could be conferred upon an individual Swedish citizen by the Swedish government.
He is still active, reflecting on the future of popular adult education, the situation of mankind today--with emphasis on young people--and the possibilities of keeping and developing a democractic society. He is a very much loved and respected lecturer and, at 101 years of age, he continues to write letters to the editor, reviews, and debate articles on the values and impact of popular adult education.
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