As a hub of citizenship education, the School offers theoretical and practical training in the form of workshops and short and long-term courses on topics including strategic planning, theories of citizenship, civil disobedience, community organizing, using public data for advocacy, media work, social mobilization, community leadership and advocacy.
We strongly believe that political participation does not start in the Parliament, but at the grassroots level. That is, each and every citizen has to have the knowledge and tools to be able to exercise their rights, assert their interests, and form civic communities. Citizens experiencing (multiple) disadvantages are particularly vulnerable when it comes to the lack of the means for political activity. Our working method is an intersection of critical theory and grassroots organizing, and as such it is based on the concept of critical pedagogy. Critical pedagogy is not a particular educational method, but rather a broader educational philosophy based on the work of Brazilian educator and theorist, Paulo Freire.
Learning processes based on the concept of critical pedagogy are built on a firm trust in participants’ capabilities who are guided or accompanied by the facilitators but by no means indoctrinated or disciplined. This educational philosophy is anchored in critical social theory–that is, it takes into account hierarchical social relations (relations of oppression in particular) by definition. Hence, any critical pedagogy project should reflect on the social relations in which the participants live and an interrogation of the ways in which these relations were to be changed in order to increase social justice. As a result, critical pedagogy is primarily targeted on individuals who experience social marginality (in any form) and their communities.
Core values of this methodology:Rejection of the authority of traditional forms of knowledge: Experience-based knowledge and understanding of social relations are as much recognized as professional expertise and an academic background.Equal partnership of educator and participant: Facilitators and participants understand that learning is a mutual and interactive process, hence, facilitators are open to learning from the experiences and knowledge of participants, and participants learn not only from the professional expertise of the facilitator but also from the competences of the other participants.Democratic processes: critical pedagogy is always based on active, participatory learning. Participants have strong agency, that is, they are encouraged to share their views, debate with the facilitators and the other participants, suggest topics and raise problems, as well as make decisions throughout the entire educational process.
Primary aims of critical pedagogy:
– to eliminate social exclusion by helping participants understand hierarchical social relations and gain means to transform these relations;
– to achieve structural, i.e. long-term, sustainably change in society by empowering marginalized social groups;
– to help participants become aware of their rights and interests, and gain the skills and knowledge to exert them;
– to help participants unlearn internalized stigmas and deficiencies;
– to make privileged social groups aware of their role in reproducing social vulnerabilities and the ways in which they can counter these processes.
Main methods and educational instruments of critical pedagogy:
– non-formal educational methods
– educational instruments that build on the life experiences and social position of (vulnerable) participants
– debate and open discussion
– methods that bring into play the senses not only the intellect: drama, video, photo, collage etc.
Based on the above, critical pedagogy programs are not confined to the traditional school environment but can take place in any setting, be it a mainstream organization, a grassroots community, or a demonstration site, among others. Therefore, this methodology is well-suited to the educational needs of social movements, and communities that do not have access to mainstream domains of learning.