The Brazilian educator Paulo Freire‘s is one among the most of the influential educational thinkers of the late 20th century. Born in Recife, Brazil, on September 19, 1921, Freire‘s died of heart failure in Sao Paulo, Brazil on May 2, 1997. After a brief career as a lawyer, he taught Portuguese in secondary schools from 1941-1947. He subsequently became active in adult education and workers' training, and became the first Director of the Department of Cultural Extension of the University of Recife (1961-1964).
Freire quickly gained international recognition for his experiences in literacy training in Northeastern Brazil. Following the military coup d'etat of 1964, he was jailed by the new government and eventually forced into a political exile that lasted fifteen-years.
In 1969 he was a visiting scholar at Harvard University and then moved to Geneva, Switzerland where he assumed the role of special educational adviser to the World Congress of Churches. Hereturned to Brazil in 1979. Finally, in 1988 he became the Minister of Education for Sao Paulo (Rage and Hope: Paulo Freire‘s, n.d.). This position enabled him to institute educational reform throughout most of Brazil.
PAULO FREIRE‘S CONCEPT OF EDUCATION
Freire's most well known work is Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970). Throughout this and subsequent books, he argues for system of education that emphasizes learning as an act of culture and freedom.
Paulo Freire is neither an idealist, nor a realist or a mechanist. Freire denies the view that man is abstract, isolated, independent and unattached to the world. He also denies that the world exists as a reality apart from men. In his view consciousness and world are simultaneous. Consciousness neither precedes the world as the idealist hold nor it follows the world as the materialist believe, Paulo‘s position is near to the existentialists who give much emphasis on existential man equipped with strong will power who can transform the world with his own efforts . In short, the role of man as a Subject in the world and with the world.
Freire‘s work mainly concerned literacy and the desire to help men and women overcome their sense of powerlessness by acting in their own behalf. The oppressed, as he called them, could transform their situation in life by thinking critically about reality and then taking action. Freire believed that the educational system played a central role in maintaining oppression and thus it had to be reformed in order for things to change for the oppressed.
Knowledge is not an isolated phenomenen. It comprehends both action and reflection. In his words the act of knowing involves the dialectical movement which goes from action to reflection and from reflection upon action to a new action.
A SET OF POLITICAL AND PEDAGOGIC PRINCIPLES
A SET OF POLITICAL PRINCIPLES :
the principal goal of popular education is to change the power relationships in our society
the objective is to create mechanisms of collective power over all the structures of society
the means of attaining this goal cannot be in contradiction with the final objective—to construct a really democratic society you cannot use authoritarian methods
the projects, strategies and tactics used in the political process have to be produced collectively by the participants themselves
A SET OF PEDAGOGIC PRINCIPLES :
the learners are the SUBJECTS, not the objects of the learning process; through this approach they can become the SUBJECTS of society
the educator and the learners are equal participants in the learning process; all are the producers of knowledge
the learning process is developed by a continuous dialogue between the educator and the learners
the objective of the learning process is to liberate the participants from their external and internal oppression; to make them capable of changing their reality, their lives and the society they live in.
In this form of education, it is the job of the teacher to deposit in the minds of the learners, considered to be empty or ignorant, bits of information or knowledge, much like we deposit money in a [empty] bank account. This is why Freire called this model of education 'banking education'.
Freire criticized this model of education because he believed that it makes the students into passive objects to be acted upon by the teacher. He argued that the goal of 'banking education' is to demobilise the people within the existing establishment of power by conditioning them to accept the cultural, social, political status quo of the dominant culture.
In the banking education model knowledge/education is seen as a gift given to the student by the teacher who considers the learner as marginal, ignorant and resource-less. Freire saw this as false generosity from the dominant group (oppressors) and a way of dominating and controlling the people (the oppressed) to improve or maintain their own interests.
Freire put forward the notion that authoritarian forms of education such as banking education prevented learners from 'knowing' the world and from seeing it as something which can be changed. He believed that authoritarian forms of education inhibited the liberation and freedom of the oppressed.
The banking education maintains and even stimulates the contradiction through the following attitudes and practices, which mirror oppressive society as a whole:
1. ) the teacher teaches and the students are taught;
2. the teacher knows everything and the students know nothing;
3. ) the teacher thinks and the students are thought about;
4. the teacher talks and the students listen-meekly;
5. ) the teacher disciplines and the students are disciplined;
6. ) the teacher chooses and enforces his choice, and the students comply;
7. the teacher acts and the students have the illusion of acting through the action of the teacher;
8. the teacher chooses the program content, and the students (who were not consulted) adapt to it;
9. the teacher confuses the authority of knowledge with his own professional authority, which he sets in opposition to the freedom of the students;
10. the teacher is the Subject of the learning process, while the pupils are mere objects.
It is not surprising that the banking concept of education regards men as adaptable, manageable beings, The more the students work at storing the deposits entrusted to them, the less they develop the critical consciousness which would result from their intervention in the world. The more completely they accept the passive role imposed on them, the more they tend simply to adapt to the world as it is and to the fragmented view of reality deposited in them.
Freire argued that change could come through a process of dialogue and reflection leading on to change through action or intervention and or political change. Freire called this process Praxis.
A PROBLEM-POSING MODEL
To challenge the banking education model, Freire proposed a problem-posing model of education. In this model, the teacher and the learner discuss and analyse their experiences, feelings and knowledge of the world together. Instead of the belief that learners' and teacher's situation in the world is fixed, as the banking model suggests, the problem-posing model explores problems or realities people find themselves in as something which can be transformed.
Paulo Freire's problem posing concept of education is based on his anthropological concept of culture which is based on Freire's distinction between animals and humans. For Paulo Freire, man is the only one to treat not only his actions but his very self as the object of his reflection; the capacity distinguished him from the animals, which are unable to reflect upon it. Animals are beings in themselves, are ahistorical, are merely stimulated, animals cannot commit themselves. Paulo Freire's anthropological concept of culture is
It is not the job of the teacher to provide answers to the problems, but to help the learners achieve a form of critical thinking about the situation (Freire called this conscientization). This makes it possible to understand that the world or society is not fixed and is potentially open to transformation. It becomes possible to imagine a new and different reality. In order for students to be able to confront oppression, they must first become critical thinkers.
1. Freire believes that critical thinking is not possible in a banking education framework, but only in a problem-posing educational framework. In the banking system of education, students are primarily asked to memorize and regurgitate often meaningless and disjointed facts; whereas in a problem-posing framework, students are asked to use critical thinking skills to investigate various problems that exist in the world.
Freire made the distinction between these two types of educational frameworks in POTO (Pedagogy of the Oppressed)
• Whereas banking education anesthetizes and inhibits creative power,
üProblem-posing education involves a constant unveiling of reality.
• The former attempts to maintain the submersion of consciousness;
üThe latter strives for the emergence of consciousness and critical intervention in reality.
Students under this framework would pose problems and then critically investigate why those problems exist. (For example, students may ask: Why does poverty exist in the United States? Freire believes that a problem-posing education will not only allow students to become critical thinkers, but reveal that the world is constantly undergoing change.
“In problem-posing education, people develop their power to perceive critically the problem. In order to undertake this process successfully, the people (oppressed) must challenge their own perception of the dominant group (oppressor) Freire argued that the oppressed think of themselves as 'less than' or something lacking. He suggested that they have been conditioned to view the practices and behaviours of the dominant groups as complete, whole and correct. To become whole complete and correct means to simulate the practices of the dominant culture. To counter this perception means engaging the learner in a process of dis-identification with dominant culture/oppressor and to help the learner to imagine a new being and a new life according to their own rationality.
The learning circle is a non-hierarchal 'class' model where participants can discuss generative themes which have significance within the context of their lives. This involves creating a democratic space where every ones' voice has equal weight age. The conditions needed for this have to be actively created as it does not often occur naturally. This can mean challenging cultural, gender and other status related power relationships and stratifications.
This “critical and liberating dialogue,” also known as “culture circles,” is the heart of Freire's pedagogy. The circles consist of somewhere between 12 and 25 students and some teachers, all involved in dialogic exchange. The role of the “teachers” in this civic education is to participate with the people/students in these dialogues. “The correct method for a revolutionary leadership…is, therefore, not’libertarian propaganda.‘ Nor can the leadership merely’implant‘ in the oppressed a belief in freedom…The correct method lies in dialogue”.
Generative themes and codifications:
As Freire worked with illiterate adult peasants, he insisted that the learning circles use the ways of speaking and the shared understandings of the peasants themselves. In the circles the learners identify their own problems and concerns and seek answers to them in the group dialogue. Dialogue focuses on what Freire called “codifications,” which are representations of the learner's day-to-day circumstances. Participants explore generative themes which are of interest to them. A generative theme is a cultural or political topic of great concern or importance to participants, from which discussion can be generated. These generative themes are then represented in the form of 'codifications' (either represented by a word or short phrase or a visual representation - a picture or photograph). Participants are able to step back from these visual representations of their ideas or history and decode or explore them critically by regarding them objectively rather than simply experiencing them. This makes it possible for the participants to intervene and initiate change in society.
Freire initially concerned himself with literacy learning. The codifications (visuals) prompted discussion, phrases and words which learners would use to develop their skills.
This method of learning literacy through meaningful discussions generated from 'codifications' has been very successful. However, Freire emphasises that the process should not be carried out mechanically but through creatively awakening [the] consciousness of the learner .
Codifications may be photographs, drawings, poems, even a single word. As representations, codifications abstract the daily circumstances. For example, a photograph of workers in a sugar cane field permits workers to talk about the realities of their work and working conditions without identifying them as the actual workers in the photograph. This permits the dialogue to steer toward understanding the nature of the participants' specific circumstances but from a more abstract position. Teachers and learners worked together to understand the problems identified by the peasants, a process that Freire calls “decoding,” and to propose actions to be taken to rectify or overturn those problems.
The circles therefore have four basic elements:
1) problem posing,
2) critical dialogue,
3) solution posing, and
4) plan of action.
The goal, of course, is to overcome the problems, but it is also to raise the awareness, the critical consciousness (conscientization), of the learners so as to end oppression in their individual and collective lives.