What is Popular Education?

“Popular education is an educational approach that collectively and critically examines everyday experiences and raises consciousness for organizing and movement building, acting on injustices with a political vision in the interests of the most marginalized.”

– Paulo Freire

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Popular and community-based education methods arise from community organizing and empowerment practices, particularly with marginalized groups. They support reflection and action in order to transform the world. They break down the rigid separation between teacher and learner – all are learners and can help facilitate learning for others.

These methods are derived from the work of Paolo Freire and have a long history of use in social movements.

In Popular Education:

  • The starting point is the concrete experience of the learner.
  • Everyone teaches; everyone learns.
  • Involves a high level of participation.
  • Leads to action for change.
  • Is a collective effort – focusing on group rather than individual solutions to problems.
  • Stresses the creation of new knowledge, rather than the passing on of existing knowledge.
  • The process is ongoing – any time, place or age.
  • And it’s fun!

– Adapted from R. Arnold and B. Burke, A Popular Education Handbook p. 9


Popular Education uses a “spiral method” of learning and action:

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