Rizal believed that the nation's freedom and welfare was anchored on the enlightenment of its people. In Dapitan, he established an informal school for boys in January 1894. his pupils learned through an integrated and holistic approach, developing their aptitudes in reading Spanish, English, mathematics, and geometry, and physical abilities through exercise, manual labor, and even formal dancing. Classes were held from Monday to Saturday for two hours every afternoon, with Rizal teaching on a hammock while his pupils sat on bamboo benches.
In a letter to Ferdinand Blumentritt in March 1895, Rizal elaborated on his method: "I have now 16 boys studying with me, paying me with their labor. They all belong to the best families in the town and one can see their eagerness to learn even if they have to work for me in order to study. If I would ask them for money, I am sure they would pay with pleasure and more would come. Ah, what a lack there is of a good school with good teachers who teach so that the children may learn and not that they may waste their time, as it happens generally. If teaching were free here, it is very probably that many good teachers from Spain and other countries would come."