What is popular education? Concept and practical applications

The philosophy and the work of the Brazilian Paulo Freire left a very wide imprint both in pedagogy and in the social sciences because they allowed to establish dialogues and reflections on the development of educational practice in different contexts, especially in America. Latin.

Then we will describe in an introductory way one of the key concepts of his work: popular education.

    Education beyond school

    The antecedents of pedagogy can be traced from the earliest stages of Western philosophical thought. However, school and education as institutions which aim at the socialization of the youngest are mainly based on the values ​​of the modern era.

    In Latin America, modern educational institutions and practices were consolidated at the end of the 19th century with other economic and political systems that had many consequences, some of which were conflicting and even painful for oppressed populations and groups.

    From there, different strategies have been proposed, including school and public education. But his response was soon insufficient, so that other alternatives were also developed in the field of social sciences, which to a large extent, they have been driven from the thought of Brazilian pedagogue Paulo Freire.

    What is popular education?

    Popular education is a current of thought and action, that is, a theoretical and methodological orientation in the field of social sciences (although its strongest application has been in pedagogy, social work and community), which has been very important for the development of programs aimed at the “popular” sector.

    The word “popular” arises from the opposition between “the popular” and “official”, where “the popular” denotes a practice or thought opposed to the official. For its part, “the officer” is a practice or a thought accepted by a majority, although it has generally been imposed and not consensual.

    In more practical terms, the concept of popular education has been useful in resisting dominant models, not only educational but also political and social.

    In this sense, it is a practice that seeks to create more just and more humane societies in defense of human rights, identities, gender, the environment (among other phenomena that express problems social), by trying to change the role of actors little taken into account. or which are generally considered passive in official models.

    Where does it come from? a little background

    Popular education is nourished by cultural and community theories and is characterized by being a global proposition with political and ethical commitments. It is based on the participation, dialogue and recognition of different knowledge during educational practice, which is heard not only within the school, but in different spaces.

    It is developed from the philosophy and proposals of Paulo Freire, who had made a long journey through places in Latin America, the main feature was political oppression.

    Freire had been linked to different movements and participatory organizations and from there he became interested in systematizing some of his experiences. He recognized the need to strengthen social actors and foster environments of participation and mentality changes through cultural and social production.

    Some of these organizational projects are, for example, the Popular Culture Movement of Recife where Freire coordinated the adult rehabilitation project. Likewise, the current of popular education is influenced by various social and political phenomena that have given rise to the development of theories such as liberation theology, the theory of marginality or popular promotion, especially in the decade of the years. 60.

      Education as a practice of freedom

      The intention of popular education is to develop strategies to strengthen and preserve the community; more specifically communication and political organization of historically oppressed popular sectors (knowing that these strategies should not have been imposed, as has traditionally happened in Latin America).

      In other words, he understands pedagogy as a communicative action which has effects on the construction of the person and the collective.

      From there, Popular Education reflects on the role of the educator and makes it possible to go beyond the position of authority or to conceive of him as the only carrier of valid knowledge; but he understands the educator as a mediator in the educational space.

      This makes it possible to consider the contradictions that the educational practice itself generates in the educator, who constantly sees himself in the need to decide between opening up to diversity or using the logics of imposition.

      For this current, education is not a purely mechanical process, but it is a process which must take into account the subject of education, that is to say its culture, its knowledge, its history, their expectations and their possibilities of projecting a future. In other words, he seeks to recognize the other as a subject of knowledge and not as a passive subject.

      One of the problems that popular education is currently facing is that it has often been assimilated to training, projects or programs developed by NGOs but which once again leave social actors passive. For that, it has been a project in constant construction and debate and has inspired many social movements, Not only in Latin America but around the world.

      related works

      Other very popular works by Paulo Freire which are important in relation to popular education are the pedagogy of indignation, the pedagogy of dialogue and conflicts, politics and education, popular culture, education. popular, cultural action for freedom and other writings; and perhaps the two most famous are the pedagogy of the oppressed and education as the practice of freedom.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Sants, M. (2008). Philosophical ideas underlying Paulo Freire’s pedagogy. Ibero-American Journal of Education, 46: 155-173
      • Rodriguez, L., Marin, C., Moreno, S., et al. (2007). Paulo Freire: a Latin American pedagogy. Science, Education and Technology, 34: 129-171.
      • Núñez, C. (2005). Popular education: an overview. The decisions. Western Institute of Technology and Graduate Studies. President Paulo Freire / Guadalajara Mexico. Accessed April 13, 2018.Available at http://www.infodf.org.mx/escuela/curso_capacitadores/educacion_popular/decisio10_saber1.pdf

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