‘Educacion Popular’ or Popular Education forms part of a current in adult education which has been described as ‘an option for the poor’ or ‘education for critical consciousness’. Most of the methodology and techniques of popular education are also those of adult education. But while many adult education programs are designed to maintain social systems, even when unjust and oppressive, popular education’s intent is to build an alternative educational approach that is more consistent with social justice.
Popular Education is called ‘popular’ be-ause its priority is to work among the many rural and urban poor who form the vast majority of people in most Third World countries. It is a collective or group process of education, where the teacher and students learn together, beginning with the concrete
experience of the participants, leading to reflection on that experience in order to effect positive change.
WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?
Brazil in the 1960’s
Popular education is barely twenty years old, tracing its roots back to Brazil in the 1960’s and the literacy training programs of an educator called Paulo Freire. In contrast to the traditional education system coming
from colonial times, which taught those Latin Americans with access to it, to accept the world view of a small elite, Freire’s students learned to read and write through discussion of basic problems they themselves were experiencing, such as no access to agricultural land. As the causes of their problems became clear, the students analyzed and discussed what joint action could be taken to change their situation. The term used by Freire for this process of action/reflection/action was ‘conscientization’- and it led participants not only to acquire new literacy skills, but also to understand their own reality. Brazil’s military coup in 1’964 put an end to Freire’s work there, but the seeds of a new concept of education had been sown.