Social Reform





Both attack traditional styles of education (from different angles), starting from a concern for the dignity and worth of the individual   - for the liberation of everyone from an oppressive or exploitative



Illich calls for a cultural revolution - at the root of the problem of an uncreative, stunted environment is the exaggerated importance attached to credits and certification, the educational monopoly claimed by schools etc.


Both contend that the teacher dominated system of education robs the learner of his/her self respect - the way in which the teacher deals with the pupil cancels the safeguards of individual freedom claims Illich.


"When the school teacher fuses in his person the functions of judge, ideologue and doctor, the fundamental style of society is perverted by the very process which should prepare for life.  A teacher who combines these three powers contributes to the warping of the child much more than the laws which establish his legal of economic minority, or restrict his right to free assembly or abode."


What gives the teacher such power over his learners? A "false assumption" that there is a secret to everything in life, that the quality of life depends on knowing that secret, that secrets should be revealed only in orderly succession and that only teachers can properly reveal these secrets.  Our educational systems teaches that in order to amount to something, people must depend on schools to

unlock all doors.


Accordingly, Illich advocates as a solution the "inverse of school" where the learner will establish new relationships with his/her environment and choose what and from whom they want to learn - would

undo teachers monopoly.


Freire concludes that learners need to be liberated from the oppression of the traditional teacher but his solution is to evolve a style of teaching which, in itself, is intrinsically liberating - through education, adult illiterates must arrive at a new awareness of their own "social situation" in order to take steps to change the society that has previously denied them an opportunity to participate.  This education in its true sense is, and should be a revolutionary force - must help the individual become more aware of and responsible for his/her world though a process of "reflection" followed by "action" and further "reflection" = "praxis".


Unlike Illich, Freire doesn't blame social degeneration primarily on the school system but traces root cause of degeneration and ignorance to class oppression (and mistaken "paternalism" of society as a

whole).  The class structure of present day society doesn't encourage or equip the poor to know and respond to the concrete realities of their world.  Instead the oppressed are locked into a situation where the development of their own critical awareness - response is practically impossible - "culture of silence" of the dispossessed - maintained by the school as it fails to encourage critical analysis of

reality, agalitarian dialogue, and the mutual humanisation of teachers and learners.


Freire's main contribution to the field lies in the concept of "conscientization" - describes the arousing of man's positive self-concept in relation to his environment and society through a " liberating education" which treats learners as "subjects" (active agents) and not as "objects" (passive recipients).  He argues for the smashing of authority - dependency mould - and emphasises reflective

thinking as crux of educational programme.  The feelings of powerlessness must be broken down - then introduce concept of "Paxis"as a man's real function (theory and practice) - people are not objects to be manipulated but are active, creative subjects with capacity to examine critically, interact with, and transform their worlds.


Freire perceives the teacher as assuming an authoritarian role as the one best qualified to prescribe what the learner should learn and how she/he should think and behave.  The teacher acts as the guardian of Illich's "secret" and so tends to diminish the learner as a human being.  This is referred to as the "banking system" - the act of transferring information from teacher's head and depositing it in the students heads.  He describes traditional teaching attitudes and practises as a system of domestication which reflects the oppressive nature of a society as a whole:


1  the teacher teaches - the students are taught;


2  the teacher knows everything and the students know nothing;


3  the teacher thinks and the students are thought about;


4  the teacher talks and the students listen, meekly;


5  the teacher disciplines and the students are disciplined;


6  the teacher chooses and enforces his choice and the students comply;


7  the teacher acts and the students have the illusion of acting through the actions of the teacher;


8  the teacher chooses the programme and the students (who weren't consulted) adopt it;


9  the teacher confuses the authority of knowledge with his own professional, which he/she sets in opposition to the freedom of the students - so if the students want freedom they must reject knowledge instead of knowledge being utilised as an essential prerequisite to freedom;


10 the teacher is the subject of the learning process, while the pupils are mere objects;


In opposition to this system, Freire suggests a problem-posing education which breaks the vertical patterns characterised of traditional teacher-student relations and establishes "horizontal dialogue ->








This learning process provides adults with opportunities for critical analysis of their environment, for deepening their self-perceptions in relation to it and for building confidence in their own creativity and

capabilities for action - teachers and students thus become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow.  Education must increasingly challenge people, move then to authentic and critical reflection, thereby increasing the scope of their perception and evoking new challenges and commitment to their spontaneous action upon reality -> the pursuit of full humanity; HUMANISATION; man's and woman's historical vocation.


Several projects have utilised such CONSCIENTIZATION techniques as the use of pictures to present life situations ("coped existential situations") with which the learners readily identify and which

provoke them to reflect on their reality, or the use of GENERATIVE themes and MEANING LOADED WORDS drawn directly from the leaders own vocabulary as aids to critical reflection and as a starting point for the learners use of literacy.


Generative words also utilised by SYLVIA ASHTON-WARNER -> years of experimentation have confirmed the value of building learning experiences around words that have intense meaning for the learners themselves -> powerful motivational aid in learning to read - key by which learner unlocks him/herself - utilised in Ecuador and Honduras combining simultation games with the  teaching of literacy.


Illich I (1971) Deschooling Society, New York, Harper & Ron.


Self Concept - the whole set of attitudes, opinions and cognitions that a person has of himself/herself.


Original Article

(Source: OU)

For wing discussion.