Popular Education For Action

So what does popular education mean?

It’s curriculum comes out of the concrete experience and material interests of people in communities of resistance and struggle. It is focused primarily on group as distinct from individual learning and development. It assumes a direct connection between education and social change’ (International Popular Education Network, 2004)

Popular educators work together with people to look at situations in new ways, and together to create new knowledge and understandings that will be useful in finding solutions to problems, building alternatives and taking action. Community-led popular education can be a powerful tool for change if it is ‘education for empowerment’ (Freire, 1972). Popular education has also been described as ‘education for freedom’. Through popular education, social, political and economic conditions can be exposed and examined, with a view to taking action to change them. Popular education supports the struggle against injustice, oppression and exploitation, and for equality.

Paulo Freire, an author and educator who wrote a lot about popular education for social change, used the word ‘conscientization’, to describe the process of making ongoing links between questioning and reflecting on the world, and taking action. This personalisation of politics and politicising of the world revolves around daily experience, not outsiders or experts, and is a process of making traditional ‘apolitical’ everyday life, ‘political’. Popular education recognises the importance of the knowledge and experience people bring, and supports a grassroots, bottom-up approach to working for social and environmental justice.

Because the word ‘popular’ can have different meanings, it has been used in different ways by different groups. Sometimes, organisations have used activities that are participatory and inclusive, and so have described their work as ‘popular’, but this is different from popular education committed to the development of critical thought and action in and on the world around us.

Ideas about ‘education for freedom’ have been expanded on through ideas of border crossings (Giroux, 1991), hope (Giroux, 1997), transgressions (hooks, 1994), freedom and possibility (Freire, 1994) and defiance (Newman, 2006). The history of popular education shows its potential strength.


Useful info on popular education:

Trapese: What is Pop Ed?: http://trapese.clearerchannel.org/whatispop.php

The Popular Education News: http://www.popednews.org/

Further reading and sources:

Freire, P (1972) Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Harmondsworth: Penguin

Freire, P (1994) Pedagogy of Hope: Reliving Pedagogy of the Oppressed, New York: Continuum

Giroux, H (1991) Border Crossings, London: Routledge

Giroux, H (1997) Pedagogy and the politics of hope : theory, culture, and schooling : a critical reader, Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press

hooks, b (1994) Teaching to transgress: education as the practice of freedom, New York: Routledge

Newman, M (2006) Teaching Defiance: Stories and Strategies for Activist Educators, San Francisco: Jossey Bass

Shotter, J (1993) Conversational realities, London: Sage Publications