GLL – On Freire’ Education for critical consciousness

COURSE: Global/Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: Samarbeta

TOPICS: local global learning, development, Transformation, Adult Education

Step 3 – Part 1: What is Transformative Adult Education?

Link to blog

Link to forum


Freire, P. (1973) Extracts from the essay entitled Education as the Practice of Freedom in Education for Critical Consciousness, New York: Continuum Publishing Company.


Consciousness, critical consciousness, conscientization, conscientizaçã, oppression, radicalization, sectarianism, assistencialism, fanaticism, Brazil, pedagogy of transformation, social change, education;


Freire presents the case of education as a means to achieve critical consciousness, which in turn would support the emergence from a state of oppression into a full-fledged democracy.

The excerpt is complex and deals with epistemological, ontological, economic, and social dimensions. Freire begins with ontologically defining men as separate from reality, which he sees as “objective”. He also juxtaposes men to animals, recognizing how the former are conscious being who can be critical of reality. He then proceeds to outline the epistemology of his thought by asserting that learning is the result of reflection (whereas animals learn by reflex). Men, therefore, are equipped with the capacity to critically reflect on their experience, to achieve a state of conscientizaçã that will allow them to conquer oppression and discrimination.

Freire also outlines his idea of time. To him, time is linear – past, present and future – and the perception of such progression is what makes men different from animals. This ability allows men to “enter into the domain which is theirs exclusively – that of History and of Culture.” (p.2)

Still using the analogy men vs. animals, Freire distinguishes between integration and adaptation. He sees adaptation as a form of dehumanizing passive acquiescence to the status quo, whereas integration is a form of active participation that can eventually transform reality. Accordingly, adapted people are mere objects, whereas integrated people are subjects in participative processes of personal and social transformation.

He advocates for a level of awareness that he calls critical consciousness, which will empower people to transcend their status of “oppressed” and become integrated into a new kind of democratic society. Freire recognizes the uncertainty that develops in times of transition from an epoch of oppression to one ensuing from people’s participation and critical consciousness. During such transition, people’s level of social consciousness would hopefully move through stages, from a semi-intransitive level, through naïve transitivity, to critically transitive consciousness. Politically, this latter, higher form of conscientizaçã “is characteristic of authentically democratic regimes and corresponds to highly permeable, interrogative, restless and dialogical forms of life -in contrast to silence and inaction, in contrast to the rigid, militarily authoritarian state.” (p.10) He also recognizes the danger of fanaticism, which would prevent people from developing a full-fledged critical consciousness.

“Naive transitive consciousness can evolve toward critical transitivity, characteristic of a legitimately democratic mentality, or it can be deflected toward the debased, clearly dehumanized, fanaticized consciousness characteristic of massification.” (p.11)

He sees education as instrumental to achieving political and social change through the process of conscientizaçã.

“The special contribution of the educator to the birth of the new society would have to be a critical education which could help to form critical attitudes, for the naive consciousness with which the people had emerged into the historical process left them an easy prey to irrationality. Only an education facilitating the passage from naive to critical transitivity, increasing men’s ability to perceive the challenges of their time, could prepare the people to resist the emotional power of the transition.” (p. 12)

“The education our situation demanded would enable men to discuss courageously the problems of their context -and to intervene in that context; it would warn men of the dangers of the time and offer them the confidence and the strength to confront those dangers instead of surrendering their sense of self through submission to the decisions of others. By predisposing men to reevaluate constantly, to analyze “findings,” to adopt scientific methods and processes, and to perceive themselves in dialectical relationship with their social reality, that education could help men to assume an increasingly critical attitude toward the world and so to transform it.” (p.13)

Freire uses the case of Brazil as a scenario for his argument, concluding that, in order to achieve the changes he supports, Brazil would need to re-appropriate itself of its history and autochthonous culture, rejecting the imported Eurocentric worldview that has contributed to so many problems. This final remarks reminds me of the “emic and etic” perspective used in anthropology and cross-cultural counseling.


1) Contradiction between his ontological and epistemological approaches.

I notice a discrepancy in Freire’s initial thoughts. His ontological introduction reminds me of the original view of Behaviorism and Gestalt. Behaviorists believe that reality exists externally and needs to be learned. His epistemological view, however, resonates more with constructivism, which denies the assumption that people are empty boxes, a tabula rasa, that are eager to be filled by instructors with fixed samples of an externally existing world. (in his book “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed”, Freire called it Banking Education.) Constructivism affirms that reality in not extrinsic to learners, who instead use motivation to actively and collaboratively construct their knowledge and meaning from their personal experience. Therefore learning is seen as the product of self-organization and to this end teachers’ role is that of mediators and facilitators.

2) Approach based on an either/or exclusion.

His ideas seem to develop within a dichotomous world, where themes and factors are juxtaposed to one another. This is the case with his view of reactionaries vs. progressives; men vs. animals; state-supported oppression vs. people’s needs; old epoch vs. new epoch; integration vs. adaptation. However, he also recognizes areas that transcend a dichotomous approach. For example he talks about a transition time between past and future.

In general, his world is fairly polarized, with Eurocentric, imported approaches facing off against what he sees as the natural character of autochthonous cultures. I believe that such views are strongly influenced by the contextual conditions in Brazil that he is trying to analyze.

3) His view seems at times to follows the same patters he strongly criticizes.

For example, he sees people at the mercy of “social forces” and relevant “myths”, (p.3) as if his was the only approach top make a correct sense of reality. This is also evident when he suggests that people should overcome adjustment “to become integrated with the spirit of the time.  I wonder who defines such spirit.

4) An overemphasis on rational thinking.

In a citation, the paper says that men will have to make “more and more use of intellectual, and less and less of emotional and instinctive functions.” I disagree with this. As I believe that today’s worldviews suffers from an overload for Western-style thinking based on a Cartesian world view. Transcending it would offer an opportunity for a paradigmal change.


On International Education


FORUM: The future of work and education

TOPICS: Larsen, international education,

Larsen, K. & Vincent-Lancrin, S. (2002). International Trade in Educational Services: Good or Bad? (link to Itslearning)

As amply explained in the article by Larsen et al., English-speaking countries clearly dominate the international education market in its different forms (in-country ed, distance ed, offshore ed).  International student mobility is firmly attracted to English-language learning experiences.

Educational pathways in other languages pursued by international students pale by comparison.

This reminds me of the expensive TOEFL test, now an almost universally mandatory application requirement for all non-English speaking students. There is no doubt that the private company that offers it has turned huge profits. It is virtually a world-wide monopoly. Not so long ago prospective students could prove their fluency in English in a variety of ways, including taking a free test upon arrival at their home university.  Things nowadays have changed dramatically.

Consequently, a huge market for English preparation classes ensued linked to a market for TESL instructors who are now required to obtain “proper credentials.” International education in English has turned into a multilayered business.

I also believe that the streamlining of application procedures and the setting of uniform application and language proficiency standards have contributed to limiting access to learning opportunities. Students with limited financial resources are for the most part excluded.

Issues of access and power in future scenarios


FORUM: The future of work and education

TOPICS: Doornbos, power, access, active citizenship, motivation, elite workforce,

Doornbos, A.J., Bolhuis, S. and Simons, P.R. (2004): Modeling Work-related Learning on the Basis of Intentionality and Developmental Relatedness: A Noneducational Perspective. (link to Itslearning)

As pointed out in other posts on this last block of readings, issues of power, inequality, and access will continue to affect future policies of work and learning.

I believe that there is a real danger of creating a framework of affordances that is restricted to those who are “in the system,” leaving the others out. Examples of such a development are at hand both in workplace training and in formal education.

Doornbos et al. – however – recognize the impact of issues of power and access in workplace learning contexts, whereas they assume equality of access in formal education settings.

“Cliques, politics, and power may intentionally or unintentionally influence the distribution of opportunities to learn. Those with more access to power can claim learning opportunities, and they can also deny opportunities for learning, whereas those with less power may find access to what they want difficult. In contrast, access to learning is assumed to be equal within a formal education setting” (p. 257).

Unfortunately, the article does not seem to add much with respect to such assessment. This could lead to the establishment of what Rifkin calls (see his article) an elite workforce.

The risk is real, as also recognized by George Papadopoulos in his assessment of access policies. (see article Lifelong Learning and the Changing Policy Environment)

I feel that current and future policies of work and learning should frame the discussion within an open system approach similar to the one suggested by Marsick and Watkins. That would ensure permeability of access within and across interrelated work-and-learning contexts. By doing so, we could transform (and not just reform) today’s approach into a new challenging and promising platform that would offer opportunities for open participation, motivated interaction, transnational co-operation, active citizenship, and diversity of learning styles and educational pathways.



FORUM: Participation in education and work; identity and social exclusion.(BLOCK 2)

School and work (BLOCK 3)

TOPICS: EXCLUSION, DISCRIMINATION, SYNERGY, connective model, appropriation, co-participatioN, legitimate peripheral participation life-long learning, agency, individual learning pathways



Hi folks,

As we are sailing into the last phase of the group assignment, here are some thoughts on policies and strategies as I identified them in the readings.

I think that we could identify several levels at which we could effectively tackle issues of exclusion and discrimination.

In the reading, I found a lot of emphasis on the establishment of a broader system of education/formation/workplace training based on a systemic approach.

Guile and Griffiths mentions the need for a synergetic approach that would involve ” re-thinking how students can be supported to relate their ‘vertical development’ and ‘horizontal development’-by addressing the institutional separation of these modes of learning and by taking more account of the influence of context upon learning.” (p. 116)

To me this constitutes the basis for an integrated system that will combine the many agents, stakeholders, institutional centers that will then contribute to the development of a  new platform for work and learning.

As cited in Guile’s article (P.117), such transformation will change Fordist and Tayloristic models of work relationships “and therefore provide workers with broader based forms of responsibility and opportunities to learn and develop (Brown & Lauder, 995).”

Guile and Griffiths suggest a “connective model” (nicely summarized in Savoie-Zaic’s article) in which “trainers and the workplace develop partnerships to create environments that foster learning within the workplace” (Savoie-Zaic, p. 117)

From there, I believe that we can expand into a network of partnerships that will contribute to re-shape and realign power relationships between and inside work and learning contexts and their participants. Schuetze defines such new scenario as “alternation system.” (Schuetze, p. 5-6) Accordingly, a new integrated framework will emerge, based on employers’ needs; learners’ personal identities, histories, and learning styles; through a variety of pathways to education, workplace learning, and work. This system will be based on sound principle of active citizenship.

And this is, I believe, the core concept that will emerge as the most important factor in anti-discrimination policies.

The language used to define the evolving marketplace and education universe at the start of the third millennium appears to be based on a broad sense of inclusion and co-participation. It includes terms like appropriation, co-participation (Billett, co-participation at work), legitimate peripheral participation (Huzzard, Communities of domination), life-long learning, agency, individual learning pathways and more.

I believe that the building of such complex taxonomy shows an attempt to overcome entrenched patterns of exclusion and establish new policies that are more attuned to our ever changing, globalized world.

From my own research about the E.U., it emerged a consistent move towards the reframing of European policies along lines similar to those described above. How are these approaches currently used in different countries? Are they useful to address and overcome issues of discrimination and exclusion?



FORUM: Participation in education and work; identity and social exclusion.(BLOCK 2)

School and work (BLOCK 3)




Reply to Claudia’s post

Claudia wrote: Oh Larissa, I read your post and I identify quite the same situation that we live in Mexico about discrimination. Besides the characteristics you mentioned, in Mexico is important if you’re “good looking”, light skin, slim body, height, etc. Of course “pretty” people have the “nicest” jobs. I found this degrading cause we are a “mestizo” culture (Indian and Spanish).

What I know is that Brazil is much more multicultural, anyway as I said before there are so many things in common.

Claudia, Larissa,

The situations you described are not unlike certain situations in Europe. In Italy it’s widespread practice to hire people based on who they know and not what they know. The technical word for that is “raccomandazione.” In Germany, that on the surface seems fairer in its hiring policies, the phenomenon also exists and is know as “Vitamin B” ( B stands for the German word Beziehungen, i.e. “connections”); in the US, where discrimination is for the most part prohibited by law, the same phenomenon is called “networking.”

Here is another example of how discrimination occurs in different countries. In the US, a resume’ should not contain information about the applicant’s place of birth, age, and definitely no picture is required. In Germany, the same information and picture are required on a resume’. One could argue that hiring outcomes in Germany may be affected by such information, and probably they are. The fact is that, like in the case of the US, even when the information is not explicit, employers have ways to find that out: age is easily inferred by the length of employment and education records; race may be linked to the location of schools or from the applicant’s name. Of course, such inference would be arbitrary, but that is exactly what discrimination is about: arbitrary exclusion based on stereotypes and prejudices.

The difference between western and other countries may be that, although discrimination happens apparently everywhere, in the West we find that, at least on paper, the phenomenon is under control. But is it really? Obviously not. E.U. policies and actions against discrimination are great, and hopefully, in the long run, they will produce the kind of paradigmatic change that will eventually make discrimination obsolete.

For more information on E.U. policies on issues of access and discrimination, see

European Commission, Action against discrimination, Civil Society

European Commission, Access to employment and social inclusion



FORUM: Participation in education and work; identity and social exclusion.(BLOCK 2)


THE CASE OF TRENTINO (linkItslearning)

In my home region (Trentino-South Tyrol), the provincial governments are in charge of education and formation policies. As anywhere else, the region knows issues of discrimination and exclusion as they have been presented in our group discussion. I would like to focus on one in particular, i.e. discrimination and exclusion affecting immigrants mainly from non- E.U. countries. This group has been known for being a target of social exclusion and discrimination. The problem is not unique to the province but find resonance across national and regional borders, which is why I decided to introduce it into our discussion.

In fact, “Similar barriers (in labour market conditions) are found in all countries:

– language difficulties

– a lack of recognition of qualifications and working experience

– difficulties with access to vocational training

– different social and cultural backround

– discrimination” (Action against discriminations in labour market, 2007)

According to the Italian Council on the Economy and Labour, in the province of Trent, a.k.a. Trentino, immigrants represent 12% of the total population. (Consiglio Nazionale dell’Economia e del Lavoro, p.12.) They face difficulties adjusting to a culture that is dramatically different from their original ones. In fact, the province has been till recently sheltered from immigration flows and has enjoyed a relative isolation and prosperity, which is now attracting an increasing number of immigrants.

Recognizing the global nature of such issues, the provincial government engages in collaborative projects that extend beyond the local boundaries.  This will transition  the discussion into the third part of our assignment, which is concerned with “strategies and policies that might be considered in order to address this phenomenon.”

I will talk more about this in the relevant discussion thread, where  I will also present a summary of strategies and policies as they emerged from the readings for this assignment.



FORUM: Participation in education and work; identity and social exclusion.(BLOCK 2)




Reply to Nemin’s post

Nermin wrote:

I’ve tried to look at this the way you suggested, focusing on the Situation/Context today, the Factors behind that, and the Outcomes that have resulted from it. However, I found that the outcome was already covered when explaining the current situation.

I think that you have a point here. I also do believe that contexts may serve as factors of discrimination. Contexts are not neutral environments, as they are shaped by issues of politics and power. They may provide a climate for limited access and discrimination even before applicants and learners appear on the scene.

Nermin wrote:


(..) If we want to show how that is evident in education and employment opportunities we can take an elite private university as an example. (…) Their selection criteria would focus on maintaining that elite status, accepting people of certain social levels. In order to attract that caliber their selection criteria for employment would also focus on an elite staff, foreign nationalities, international degrees, and work experience in elite institutions.

I think I understand the scenario that you are presenting in your post. I believe it reflect current trends in certain countries ( is Egypt one of them?) that rely on foreign education to sustain and perpetuate their ruling class. I believe that this may not always be the case with European countries, that are still heavily relaying on their own education credentials. “International degrees and foreign nationalities” may be talked about as important in a person’s personal development and career pathway, but I am afraid that in reality in each country the selection process is still heavily informed by national policies and education policies. As an example, you stand a much better chance at getting a job in Germany or Italy if you have received your academic credentials in-country. In fact, the use of foreign credential (from non EU-countries) in the public sector very often feels like an up-hill bureaucratic nightmare.

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