Paulo Freire on ‘post-literacy’ adult education
Reading Group notes (7 May 2015)
Our session began with an overview of the life and work of Paulo Freire, with a specific focus on the extent to which Freire was influenced by Marxism, and at what particular times and places this influence had been most apparent. Participants in the room had been asked to read a section from Pedagogy in Process (1983), a commentary written by Freire during his work in Guinea-Bissau. We focused on Letter 11, which explores the relationship between the content of educational programmes and the wider social purpose of learning.
There was some concern that this attempt to enhance adult education and levels of literacy had been carried out in Portuguese, the language of the colonial power. There was also a discussion about how Freire’s theory and methods might be appropriate for the geographical and political contexts in which some of the participants are currently working, in the UK and in Africa. The point was made that Freire’s literacy education projects took place as part of national government projects, in Brazil and Chile where the ability to read and write was needed to be eligible to vote. Yet Freire’s approach to critical literacy went beyond simply learning to read the word, and extended to learning to read and interpret the world, so that it might be humanised. This is the essence of the concept of conscientization, or critical consciousness, on which much of his work was based. We left to pursue understandings of what this can mean in the contexts of our work today.
For a description of this seminar, see here.