Conscientização, Everyday Struggle and Dissent: Towards a Framework for Effective Community-Education Linkage

Ravi Kumar

Community has been one of the most popularly used terms in educational discourse in particular and development discourse in general. It has become one of the defining features of the educational interventions – on part of state as well as non-state institutions. However, not much attention has been paid to its conceptualisation. It connotes, combined with the principle of decentralisation, an universal appeal towards democratisation of educational institutions and equality in access to education. At a certain plain, it is expected to draw in popular inputs into the formulation of the educational discourse as well as its implementation. The logical extension of such a role for popular participation ends into the state being reduced to only a facilitator. The question that arises at such a conjuncture is whether the recent developments in education in any way indicate towards such a possibility.

In order to understand the recent developments it is essential to not only get back to basic issues of how does one define education, its purpose and character but also the issue of what are sources of education and for whom are certain kinds of education meant. In other words, before we move towards a full fledged support for ‘community-school’ linkage one needs to get back to what thinkers such as Freire and Gandhi conceptualised as the relationship between education and the community or everyday life. If education is about people, about encouraging, what Freire called, conscientização, and about encouraging dissent, dialogue and resistance then it is about being intrinsically connected to the everyday affairs of individuals and communities. Hence, it is also important to look at how everyday struggles of people constitute pedagogical sources. Unless this is taken into account it will be difficult to locate the intersection between community and education.

It is also important to deconstruct the notion of community as a homogeneous entity because the danger is always, then, to treat the social-economic situations of distinct classes as same. This in turn allows a dominant ideological orientation of curriculum and pedagogy to marginalise the alternatives (the alternatives are not talked about here in terms of various alternatives that we experience today but strictly in Freireian and revolutionary critical pedagogical sense).

This paper would make an initial effort to understand community as differentiated and therefore education as a site of struggle. And it would argue for the need to take this into consideration while conceptualising the community-education linkage. Beginning with Freire’s notion of education as encouraging  conscientização and Gandhi’s vision of linking education with everyday life of individuals and communities, this paper would look at everyday struggles as site of pedagogy and as an important illustration of the community-education linkage. Only through such an illustration, it would argue, we can have an effective and a transformative education.

(Paper written for National Seminar on “Community and School Linkages: Principles and Practices” at NUEPA, New Delhi on 17-19, March, 2008)