8 julio, 2024

Anton Makárenko: biography, pedagogical theories, contributions, works

Anton Makarenko (1888–1939) was a Ukrainian-born educator, social worker, and writer. He is considered the most influential educational theorist in the Soviet Union and one of the founders of pedagogy in that nation. He is recognized as one of the great educators in the world thanks to the contributions he made in his various publications.

He stood out for promoting democratic ideas and principles within the educational field, as well as for introducing the concept of productive work in this system. He was also in charge of developing the theory and methodology of education in autonomous children’s groups.

He was the founder of the cooperative houses for orphans from the civil war and juvenile delinquents. He is also famous for his numerous works, including educational poem (1933), a three-volume book that today is included in the curriculum of various educational institutions.



early years

Anton Semyonovich Makarenko was born on March 13, 1888, in the city of Bilopol, Kharkiv province, which was then the capital of Ukraine.

He was the second son of Semyon Grigorievich Makárenko, a painter from a railway depot, who was a reserved and uncommunicative man. His mother, Tatyana Mikhaylovna, the daughter of a Russian soldier, was by contrast a woman with a great sense of humor and optimism. Antón described her character as the “major tone”.

Makárenko during his childhood turned out to be somewhat weak and sickly, although he had unusual powers of observation. At the age of five he already knew how to read and write without problems and at the age of seven he entered the school of first letters.

Five years later, in 1900, the father got a job in Kryukov, so the family moved to this suburb of the industrial city of Kremenchug. Makárenko enrolled in the urban school of that city where he studied for six years, excelling in subjects such as philosophy, astronomy and natural sciences.

When he left, he took a one-year pedagogical course and in 1905, at just seventeen years old, he began to teach. His first years were in the primary school of the company where his father worked, at the Dolinskaya station near Kherson.

There he began to do certain experiments with his students and one of his first conclusions was the need to understand the peculiarities of each student’s life, since knowing their personal traits would make it easier to influence them to improve their behavior.

In 1914 he enrolled in the Poltava Training College which he was unable to continue. Two years later he joined the Russian army, but in March 1917 he was dismissed due to poor vision. For this reason, he resumed his studies and managed to graduate with honors.

Stage after the revolution

In 1919 he worked as a teacher in Poltava, and then in Kryukov. There he would become director of the local university, but he was only there for a year because, in 1920, he was invited to direct the Poltava Colony for young delinquents.

Years later, Makárenko was entrusted with the creation and management of a center, near Poltava, for children and young people who had been left homeless as a result of the Russian Revolution and who may or may not have fallen into criminal actions.

The rehabilitation settlement would be known as Colonia Gorki, in honor of the pedagogue Máximo Gorki. In it he produced a couple of articles and a public report that he presented at the Ukraine Conference.

Under the influence of this pedagogue, the young people of the center became interested in the economy of the colony and dedicated themselves to working their fields and orchards. The reading Gorki, writer and godfather of the community, was transformative for the consciousness of these young people.

In 1926, the students of the Gorky Colony began to take charge of another educational center with about two hundred children in Kuriazh, near Kharkov. However, criticism did not wait for the report that Makárenko had published on the Gorki colony. Seven years later, due to discrepancies with the educational authorities, he was fired, but he dedicated himself to forming other colonies with as much success as he did in Gorki.

In 1927 he was also appointed head of the Dzerzhinsky Commune, near Kharkiv, a penal institution for young offenders. Despite the fact that the young people who entered the said orphanage were considered incorrigible, Makárenko managed to earn the respect of them and his colleagues.

In the institution he combined insistence, respect, school education and productive work. The commune came to have a factory of electric drills and another of Leika cameras.

Last years

He became a member of the Soviet Union of Writers from 1934. Between 1935 and 1937 he was deputy director of the section of the workers’ colonies of the People’s Commissariat for internal affairs of Ukraine. In 1936 she was assigned another colony in Brovary, which she became an exemplary collective in just one year.

At that time he was accused of criticizing Stalin and supporting the Ukrainian opposition, for which he had to flee kyiv and settled in Moscow. There he dedicated himself to organizing his educational programs, as well as writing and publishing on pedagogy and literature.

Already a famous pedagogue, he gave lectures, radio programs and wrote articles in prestigious newspapers such as Pravda and Izvestia. In these years he also published three of his works, including the one he did in collaboration with his wife: Book for parents.

In early 1939 Makarenko was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labour, a prestigious Soviet award. Soon after, at just 51 years old, he died of a heart attack in a suburban train car. It was the Golitsyno railway station, belonging to the Moscow Railway. His body was buried at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.

pedagogical theories

During his career, controversy surrounded Makárenko because he considered that the educational authorities were oblivious to reality. He called them «pedagogical Olympus» as a way of criticizing their purely theoretical, bourgeois, traditional and Western vision that they maintained regarding education.

He maintains that the purpose of education is “the formation of a ‘new man’, endowed with the historically essential knowledge, values, aptitudes and attitudes to build and defend Soviet society”.

Makárenko proposed that education should train individuals who enjoy the following characteristics:

-Responsibility for the objectives of the Soviet Society.

-Spirit of collaboration.

-Solidarity and camaraderie.

-Disciplined personality.

-Sense of duty.

-Focus on the interests of the community over individuals.

-Fight against the submission and exploitation of man by man.

-Political training.

-To be a convinced communist, as well as a propagandist of action and word.

collectivity and work

Among the contributions that Makárenko provided to pedagogical theories, two key concepts stand out: collectivity and work.

The first factor, the community, is at the same time an end and a means of education. Within it, it is the educator who creates and organizes the community, that is, the social environment in which the students develop.

Hence the emphasis that Makárenko gives to the community, creating it in its strongest sense, cohesive, organized, with clear goals and discipline. This allows you to develop an incredible capacity for self-management. Although the operating models were proposed from above, it was the members of the commune who functioned as the leading body.

Collective education could not be carried out only through the primary community, but through a larger one that transcends compadrazgo and presents a deeper social synthesis.

The second factor was work, but one of a productive nature and with a social sense, not a mere formative artifice. This also implied the cultivation of willpower for what is also considered a pedagogy of effort.

He considered that work was essential for children and young people to develop intellectually and morally. For this, he proposed that everyone should be assigned tasks that required work, as well as give them responsibilities with which they could learn the limits of their individual rights and privileges.

Initially, the communes received official aid for their operation, but later they began to finance themselves and obtain profits for the State. The settlers were in charge of all the services of the commune and additionally dedicated four hours to productive work and five to instruction. These two elements were completely autonomous and unrelated.

Other contributions to pedagogy

The pedagogical technique that Makárenko pursued transcended the teaching of certain knowledge and skills, since it sought to train entire personalities. In this case, it was the communist personality that could be shaped by directly providing them with an ideological and political framework.

For Makárenko, the educator had to have pedagogical mastery, which was not an innate quality or a talent, but a “know-how” that could be taught and learned. This pedagogical mastery meant knowing how to act and relate to the child or young person, knowing when to hold back, knowing how to express ideas or feelings well, knowing how to read the student’s face.

Makarensian institutions

His theory was formed by trial and error, through daily practice, from which several conclusions can be drawn. One of them was the need to integrate detachments of different ages, with young and old, because it was the ideal and most effective form of training.

It also temporarily formed mixed detachments to carry out specific tasks. All members had to have the experience of directing their peers at some point.

In Makarensian institutions, the militaristic elements in their operation stand out. Artistic activities, such as music, theater and literature, also had a formative meaning. Finally, discipline was a key factor, but not conceived as a means but as a result of his technique.

A fundamental methodological element of his theory was to ignore, destroy or lock up the criminal records of any of his students. This complete ignorance of the boy’s past was essential for the re-education of delinquents and allowed the teacher to act in the most pedagogical and objective way.


-Posh (play, 1932)

-March of the 30th year (novel, 1932)

-A Sketch either FD-1 (posthumous work, 1932)

-The pedagogical poem (novel, 1925 -1935).

-The book for parents (art and theoretical composition, 1937)

-Honour (novel, 1937-1938)

-Flags on towers (1938)

-Technique of the organization of educational process

-Lectures about education of children


– “The maximum possible demands with the maximum possible respect”.

– “Education is not at the service of the individual, but designed for the community, the person at the service of the common good”.

– “It is necessary to show the students that work and…

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