Presentation Details

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Eleventh International Literacy and Education Research Network Conference on Learning

The Role of Popular Education in Educational Reform

Barbara Lynn Smith.

Popular education challenges the traditional way of ‘teaching’ people, an education that makes them passive learners; one that silences them and makes them conform. It challenges attitudes and social structures that oppress people. This alternative is based on the realization that for education to be more meaningful, it must revolve around the actual life-situations and experiences of the learners. Likewise, it uses forms that people can easily identify with and appreciate, forms that enhance their creativity and inherent talents. It is the unity of theory and praxis that popular education offers that I believe most educators are looking for to assist them in dealing with the complex issues they are currently facing in their classrooms. Popular education allows educators to bring their student’s lives into the school and include them in the educational process. Popular education also offers a means to deal with the difficult issues that teachers face in their work of recreating schools and society. Issues such as how do we transform ourselves into liberatory educators, how do we begin the transformation of students and what is dialogical teaching? Popular education offers that important link between education and action that would once again engage teachers in the process of teaching
This paper will look at case study results of a large popular education program in Cuba. The study looked at the role popular education plays in Cuba and the influence it has had in the schools in Cuba. The discussion will focus mainly on the relevance of study results for educators looking to incorporate nonformal and popular education practices into the formal education system to more effectively meet student’s needs.


Barbara Lynn Smith  (United States)
Doctoral Candidate
Critical Pedagogy
University of St. Thomas

I have twenty years of experience working in the field of elementary and early childhood education. During these years I have worked on curriculum committees, diversity committees, SITE teams, served as a union representative, and mentor to new staff and student teachers. With an interest in educational reform I am currently pursuing a Doctorate in Critical Pedagogy. My dissertation is a case study of a popular education program in Cuba and the relevance of nonformal and popular education practices for North American educators interested in educational reform.

  • Popular education
  • Educational reform
  • Non-formal education

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)