"Tell me, and I forget. Show me, and I remember. Involve me, and I understand" (Chinese proverb)

In the 21st century we face unprecedented ecological, social and climatic crises. Education, and in particular popular education, is vital to much needed, meaningful radical social change. An education where we relearn co-operation and responsibility, that is critically reflective but creatively looks forward- an education that is popular, of and from the people. Popular, liberatory or radical education aims at getting people to understand their world around them, so they can take back control collectively, understand their world, intervene in it, and transform it. There are many examples of groups that can organize their own worlds without experts and professionals, challenge their enemies and build movements for change.

So what does popular education mean?

'Its curriculum comes out of the concrete experience and material interests of people in communities of resistance and struggle. It is focused primarily on group as distinct from individual learning and development. It assumes a direct connection between education and social change'

International Popular Education Network, 2004

Within the work of Trapese we have identified the following characteristics of popular education

1. A commitment to transformation and freedom - At the heart of popular education is a desire not just to understand the world, but to empower people so they can change it.

2. Learning our own histories not his-story - Although there is always at least two sides to every story, the vast majority of official history is exactly that his-story, written by the literate educated few, mainly men, not by peasants, workers, fighters, or women. We are taught about leaders of world wars and histories of great scientists, but not much about the silent millions who struggled daily for justice. These are the ordinary people doing extra-ordinary things who are the invisible makers of history.

3. Starting from daily realities - Looking at how problems and issues affect people in their daily lives

4.Learning together as equals and showing solidarity -
Popular education aims to break down the relationship between teachers/ students and educators and participants.

5.Getting out of the classroom -
Learning can take place everywhere and anywhere

6.Inspiring social change - enabling particpants to feel connected to wider issues and to be take action on the issues that concern them.


The methods and approach of Trapese aim to:

  • Developing a critical awareness about the world we live in
  • Promoting social and environmental justice -over economic gain
  • Valuing creative, emotional knowledge rather than just facts
In practice this involves:
  • Getting to know the group and its context beforehand and adopting our sessions to meet their needs.
  • Working with existing experiences and knowledge within groups in a non-hierarchical way
  • Stimulating debate and free thinking rather than dictating facts.
  • Helping with future action plans, looking at local opportunities for organising, networking contacts for training etc

Links to other groups working on popular education

Popular education now! A new site to gather resources, lesson plans etc...

Popular Education News A free monthly email newsletter about popular education. community organising resources for facilitators and practitioners

Centre for Popular Education The UTS ( University of Technology in Sydney)  Centre for Popular Education undertakes research, consulting and teaching activities concerned with education and social justice

PopEd Theory | PopEd Toolkit  Popular Education has been used as a tool to do raise people's consciousness to become more aware of how their personal experiences are linked with larger.Popular Education is a group facilitation technique to raise consciousness and become aware of how an individual's personal experiences are connected to larger societal problems. The theory was  expressed by Paulo Freire in the Pedagogy of the Oppressed.  Freire worked to empower peasants in Brazil through literacy. Since that time it has been used for a great many purposes in both the North and South.

Institute for Social Ecology - Popular Education for a Free Society   An alternative educational center in Vermont that conducts classes on social ecology and other environmental issues.

Popular education - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia  Popular education is a form of learning focused on the empowerment of its participants. An excellent opensource website which you can add to. Help us build up the popular education pages.

Catalyst Centre - Popular Education Resources  Catalyst Centre  practices popular education for promoting cultures of learning for positive social change including: literacy

Popular education @ the informal education homepage A select, annotated, bibliography examining practice within informal education, adult education and community education.

Stanley Aronowitz on Popular Education in a Time of Struggle (audio) This is a recording of Stanley Aronowitz speaking on 'Popular Education in a Time of Struggle' to a Workers Solidarity Movement meeting in the Seomra Spraoi Social centre, Dublin the end of March 2009. Stanley Aronowitz is professor of sociology, cultural studies, and urban education at the CUNY Graduate Center. He is also a veteran political activist and cultural critic and an advocate for organized labor.

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