Education can be used as a tool to empower the individual. Through
child centered learning, students are able to see their own role in
transformation. Societal change comes from the collective transformation of the
individuals within that society.
Literacy allows people, particularly those who are marginalized and
discriminated against in society, to acquire a “critical consciousness”. Empowered individuals are better
equipped to question and critique societal realities and assumptions and more
enabled to change their situation.
Empowering education approaches individual growth as an active, cooperative
and social process because the self and the society create each other (Shor
1992). Rather than being merely in
the world, individuals can be taught that they are actually co-creators of
their reality. This is a simple,
yet significant, shift in perspective – life does not just happen to us – we all have a role in the unfolding in our
lives, no matter our circumstances.
this section I’ve introduced the theories of a number of educational innovators
in order to explore the relationship between the education of the individual
and the transformation of the collective.
Paulo Freire (1921 -
1997), the Brazilian educationalist, has left a significant mark on thinking
about progressive practice. The fundamentals of his ‘system’ point to an educational
process that focuses on the students’ environment. Freire assumes that the
learners must understand their own reality as part of their learning activity.
In his well known work Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire refers to traditional rote-learning
as a banking system, where students store deposits of knowledge made by the
teacher. Through liberation
education he aims to narrow the gap between the teacher and the student thus
increasing the student’s creative power (Freire 1993). Central to this model is open
communication and earnest dialogue between the student and the teacher. This challenges the teacher to
demonstrate their humanity and that they are not “above” the student. In problem-posing education, people
develop their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with
which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world not as at
static reality, but as a reality in process, in transformation (Freire 1993).
Freire’s philosophy may seem far from the current reality of most developing
countries. Yet this is exactly why
his ideas were born: to help with the struggle for the social transformation of
the post-colonial world in the interests of the liberation of subordinate
populations and cultures from the structures and ideologies which dominate them
(McLaren & Leonard 1993).
Freire gives recognition and understanding of the depths of the struggle
of decolonization and liberation.
Ghose Aurobindo (1872-1950) was an Indian born and Cambridge educated scholar,
political leader and educator during India’s independence movement. He aimed to bridge Western rational and
scientific thought and Eastern spirituality, combining the best of both worlds
into his own unique model. His
experiences as a professor in the British model prior to independence deeply
affected his educational philosophies (Heehs 1989). Aurobindo was aghast to see how bad the British system could
be when transplanted in Indian soil (Heehs 1989). Aurobindo commented that the students would “take down
everything verbatim and mug it up by heart. Such a thing would never have happened in England” (Heehs
1989). He noticed that his students were more concerned with getting the
correct information in order to pass the university examinations rather than
gain a full understanding and appreciation of the material (Heehs 1989). This is not unlike what is happening
today in developing countries.
Aurobindo believed that
with the transformation and growth of the individual, society would in turn
transform and evolve. While lesser
known than Freire, he was considered a pioneer voice in political and global
education. His scheme of integral
education rooted in ‘the developing soul of India, to her future need, to the
greatness of her coming self creation, to her eternal spirit’ (UNESCO 1997).
Aurobindo hoped to help create a new Indian society by teaching people how to
learn for themselves and trust themselves and develop their own inherent
potential. Accordingly, Aurobindo “conceived of education as an instrument for
the real working of the spirit in the mind and body of the individual and the
nation. He thought of education that for the individual will make its one
central object the growth of the soul and its powers and possibilities, for the
nation will keep first in view the preservation, strengthening and enrichment
of the nation—soul and its Dharma (virtue) and raise both into powers of the
life and ascending mind and soul of humanity. And at no time will it lose sight
of man’s highest object, the awakening and development of his spiritual being”
model of Free Progress was
very much born out of frustration with the British model in India and
incorporated his ideas on how education could best suit students as
learners. The aim of Free Progress
is to help the child to develop his intellectual, emotional, moral, spiritual
and physical being out of their own capacities in a participatory manner and at
their own pace (Aurobindo 2001).
The role of the teacher here is to guide a student to learn for
themselves. The first principle of
true teaching is that nothing can be taught. The teacher is not an instructor
or task master; he is a helper and a guide. His business is to suggest and not
to impose’. The second principle according to Aurobindo is that ‘the mind has
to be consulted in its growth’ (UNESCO 1997). The teacher should be concerned
not with what the student remembers, but what he understands (Heehs 1989).
Gandhi’s (1869 – 1948) educational philosophies were also born out of India’s
independence movement. Truth,
non-violence and passive resistance were successfully used as an instrument of
social and political transformation. Gandhi’s educational views were twofold:
On one hand, education was necessary to prepare Indians for self rule, the
preservation of Indian culture and the service of humanity. On the other hand education is
seen as a method for self-realization and personal development and attainment
of knowledge for learning’s sake.
Gandhi believed that education can play an effective role in developing
a wholesome human personality capable of resisting war, violence, injustice and
oppression and building a social order wherein man can live in peace and
harmony with others (Rajput 1998).
The beauty of Gandhi’s
model is that the goal is for communities to be self sufficient and learn to
make the best of what they have. To Gandhi, freedom of human beings does not
lie in just a freedom from foreign political rule. Freedom of human beings lies
in freedom from all types of exploitation and all types of dependence on others
(Soni 1999). The rationale he
proposed was that schools must be self-supporting, as far as possible, for two
reasons. One was purely financial: namely, that a poor society could not
provide education to all its children unless schools could generate the
physical and financial resources to run them. The other was political: that
financial self-sufficiency alone could protect schools from dependence on the State
and from interference by it (UNESCO 1997).
developed the concept of Basic Education with the hope that it would become the
basis of the national system (Kumar 1995). Basic education did not refer simply to primary education. Rather, it was seen as the base upon
which the whole of an education, from beginning to end, was to be built
(Rajghat 1996). Basic Education
aimed to improve the quality of life where one was born rather than encourage
“brain drain”. It aimed for the
uplift of all, particularly women and girls. Four basic principles characterize Basic Education: self
reliance, language of instruction, handicraft skills and relevance of the
curriculum. His concept of Education
for Life made no distinction
between work and learning and taught skills that would transform a village to
be self supporting. This was done
through teaching of handicraft skills and agriculture.
knowledge given to children was to be relevant to the child’s reality. Teachers of Basic schools were trained
to develop their own daily curriculum of activities and their own material with
minimal reliance on textbooks. Gandhi emphasized self-reliance in the
individual – children were to be trained to be independent thinkers (Rajghat
1996). Children were to be taught
in their mother tongue not only to minimize the imperialistic nature of the
British education system but also to facilitate greater understanding for the
child. Gandhi’s model in
particular is important because it incorporates what is learned in school with
what the child really needs to know to thrive in their environment. Many educational systems, particularly
in rural areas, have curriculums that are irrelevant to the child’s environment
and Gandhi’s model strived to use education as a tool to enhance the child’s
experience in any given situation.
Eisler (2005) suggests moving from a dominator model to a partnership model of
education. These models describe
systems of belief and social structures that either nurture or support – or
inhibit and undermine – equitable, democratic, nonviolent, and caring
relations. Through an
understanding of the partnership and dominator cultural, social, and personal
configurations, we can more effectively develop the educational methods,
materials, and institutions that foster a less violent, more equitable,
democratic and sustainable future (Eisler 2005). Partnership Education grounds learning in an understanding
of social, economic, and political structures. This makes it possible for
students to see that neither personal choices nor social policies occur in a
vacuum - that they are largely shaped by the constraints or opportunities of
dominator ways of structuring relations are still predominant in some cultures. This can be seen in religious
fundamentalist cultures with top-down control in the family and state or tribe,
the rigid ranking of the male over the female, and the acceptance,
idealization, and even sanctification of violence as a means of imposing and
maintaining control. Dominator
model creates fear, pain and tension.
we give a substantial number of today’s children the nurturance and education
that enables them to live and work in the equitable, nonviolent, gender-fair,
environmentally conscious, caring and creative ways that characterize
partnership rather than dominator relations, they will be able to make enough
changes in beliefs and institutions to support this way of relating in all
spheres of life. We will also be
able to give our children the nurturance and education that we are today
learning makes the difference between realizing or stunting our great human
potentials (Eisler 2005: 53).
childhood care that heavily relies on praise, caring touch, affection and lack
of violence or threats releases the chemicals dopamine and serotonin into
particular areas of the brain, promoting emotional stability and mental
health. By contrast, if children
are subjected to negative, uncaring, fear, shame and threat-based treatment or
other aversive experiences such as violence or sexual violation, they develop
neurochemical responses appropriate for this kind of dominator environment,
becoming tyrannical to themselves or others, abusive and aggressive or
withdrawn and chronically depressed, defensive, hyper-vigilant and numb to
their own pain as well as often to that of others (Perry et al.1996).
bell hooks: http://www.infed.org/thinkers/hooks.htm
Introduction to bell
Center for Dewey Studies
The Encyclopedia of
This comprehensive site
provides a wealth of information related informal education. Presented as an encyclopedia a huge
array of thinkers, ideas and terms are examined.
The Teachings of J.
Partnership education is
the work of Riane Eisler who looks at dominator versus partnership models in
society and education.
Paulo Freire Institute
Rudolf Steiner College
Thinkers on Education
In 1993 and 1994, UNESCO
published a series of profiles of 100 famous educators (including philosophers,
statesmen, politicians, journalists, psychologists, poets, men of religion)
from around of the world. Each profile
is individually downloadable.
Dewey, J. (1916) Democracy and Education. An
introduction to the philosophy of education (1966 edn.). New York: Free Press.
Dewey, J. (1938) Experience and Education. New York: Collier Books.
Eisler, Riane (2005). Tomorrow’s education:
Education for a partnership world.
In John Miller et al. (Eds.) Holistic learning and spirituality in
education: Breaking new ground (pp.
47-67). New York: SUNY Press.
(1994). Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York: Routledge Press.
Perry, B.D. et.
al. (1996). Childhood trauma, the
neurobiology of adaptation, and “use dependent” development of the brain: how
”states” become ”traits.” Infant
Mental Health Journal, 16, 271 – 291.
Robert, Ed. (1984). The
essential Steiner: Basic Writings of Rudolf Steiner. San Francisco: Harper
(1992). Empowering Education:
Critical Teaching for Social Change.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
(2001). J. Krishnamurti. Prospects: the quarterly review of comparative
education. Paris: UNESCO
Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in society: Development of Higher
Psychological Processes. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Paulo (1970). Pedagogy of the
Oppressed. New York: Seabury Press
Paulo (1973). Education for
Critical Consciousness. New York: Seabury Press.
McLaren, P. & Leonard, P. (1993). Paulo Freire: A Critical Encounter. New
Kumar, Krishna (1995). Listening to Gandhi. Excerpt from seminar #496.
Rajghat (1996). Excerpts from Vinoba
Bhave. Thoughts on Education.
Varanasi: Sarva Seva Sangh Prakashan.
Rajput, J.S. ed. (1998). Gandhi
on Education. New Delhi: National Council for Teacher
Dayalchand (1999). Education
Today and Tomorrow In The Context Of Gandhian Basic Education. Udaipur.
Peter (1989). Sri Aurobindo: A
Brief Biography. Delhi: Oxford University Press
Ghose (2001). The Right Object of Education and India’s National Education. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Society.