WHAT IS POPULAR EDUCATION?
Popular education is an active learning process that raises social awareness; stimulates critical and creative thinking; and leads to action for social change.
This article on popular education from Infed gives a useful starting place to learn more about the thinking behind popular education and how its approaches can be used to raise ‘critical consciousness’ or help people to realise more clearly how the injustices of the world are concentrated and sustained. It also contains links to a number of excellent resources for further reading. It states that:
A number of elements are usually present in popular education approaches:
- horizontal relationships between facilitators and participants.
- response to a need expressed by an organised group.
- group involvement in planning the training and political action.
- acknowledgement that the community is the source of knowledge. (Hamilton and Cunningham 1989: 443).
Some of the language of popular education can be unfamiliar to people at first but its key ideas are open and resonate with many people across the world.
A SANE APPROACH TO POPULAR EDUCATION
In 2018, the SANE Collective ran an 11 session course entitled “WTF Is Neoliberalism?”, aimed at creating an inclusive space for discussion and learning, where “education can be great fun, participatory and help us develop the skills to participate in society.”
This was followed up later the same year with another event, “Understanding Democracy: A SANE Collective Experience”. The aim was to explore how democracy emerged, what it is or could have been, the current ‘state of the state’ and what could be done about it. This session looked at the history of the campaign to end the slave trade, with its combination of popular protest, lobbying and petitioning, and explored what could be learned from it as we struggle for democracy and rights today.
POPULAR EDUCATION IN SCOTLAND
In Scotland, Community Education and Community Development courses at Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and University of West of Scotland offer degrees and postgraduate study which build on the principles of popular education.
In Edinburgh, a great organisation called Active Inquiry runs projects based on the ‘Theatre of the Oppressed’ approaches developed by Augusto Boal. This is a great example of popular education techniques in action.
Check out two Scottish based academic journals for more information:
The Radical Community Work Journal
Concept: The Journal of Contemporary Community Education Practice Theory
Check out this report from Enough! on Rethinking Education in a Time of Ecological and Social Crisis.