Pedagogy of Social Justice

Neoliberalism, Critical Pedagogy and Education

A conference (supported by Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung) was organized in March 2013 and now published as a volume titled ‘Education, State and Market: Anatomy of Neoliberal Impact’ (

Education, State and Market: Anatomy of Neoliberal Impact
Education, State and Market: Anatomy of Neoliberal Impact

The workshop and the volume brings forth the way neoliberalism has impacted the education system as a whole. Needless to reiterate that this impact could be seen in different arenas of educational sphere ranging from language, curriculum to interactions within classrooms as well as in the larger purpose of education itself. In March 2014, an international conference (Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung) was organized and now published as a volume titled ‘Neoliberalism, Critical Pedagogy and Education’ (

The conference This examined the role of neoliberalism and its impact on education in South Asia. Looking at how that education is in a state of crisis across the world it showed that the state has withdrawn to pave way for private capital and also debated how knowledge and ways of understanding the world are being challenged by manipulation and adverse influences.

What also emerged out of the deliberations in the two conference was the need to look for alternatives to the crisis generated by the current stage of development. There is no doubt that there have been innumerable alternatives in education, specifically to curriculum and pedagogy that have been seen in this country. There nature has also been different. Historically, they range from the effort of the state in post-independent times to explore the Gandhian educational paradigm through Buniyadi Vidyalayas to historic effort by activists and scholars to create an alternative in science teaching in Madhya Pradesh through Hoshangabad science teaching programme. There have been other alternatives such as ones imbued with the ideas of Aurobindo and Krishnamurti while many others began experimenting within specific schools such as Adharshila Shikshan Kendra in Madhya Pradesh or Kanavu alternative centres in Waynad district of Kerala. There have been many others like these initiatives, which talked and claimed to work through an alternative educational paradigm. These diverse alternatives had their own limitations emerging out of their ideological groundings and the way they looked at education-society linkages. Apart from this, the problem with all of them across board due to innumerable reasons has been two fold:

  1. Due to their specific reasons they could not become generalizable examples and hence, did not become part of the psyche and practice of teachers within schools.
  2. These alternatives stop from becoming a part of common mass imagination

How should education be imagined has been debated for quite some time. Krupskaya talked of a new kind of public education that can be built afresh once “the old, class-ridden school system, which had become scandalously unjust” is replaced with a new kind of school that would educate people holistically developing among them an idea of the world and nature around them. It would prepare people at the theoretical and practical levels for any physical or intellectual work, and able to build a rational, full, beautiful and joyful life in society. She argued for an organizational form of education that would dictated by the life itself. She put her imagination as the following:

“In fact the people’s teacher is close to the people’s environment, and in most cases is connected with it in a thousand ways; the divide between the teaching profession and the people was artificially created, for a specific purpose. The new conditions are abolishing this divide, and forms of collaboration between teacher and population must be established that put an end to the unnatural division […] this rapprochement will ensure that schools flourish, and that through hard work together the cultural level of the country will rise, and that we will have a better future; it promises a renaissance of the teaching profession, whose role can now become honoured and respected”.

Freire on the other hand talked of how education will become partisan when it emerges out of and is grounded in the context of the learner. It will reflect the dialectics of the learner-the society around-the educational process. Education becomes a source of generating critical consciousness for him. He would write that

“conscientizacao represents the development of the awakening of critical awareness. It will not appear as a natural byproduct of even major economic changes, but must grow out of a critical educational effort based on favorable historical conditions”.

Gandhi and his idea of education, reflected through his life as a pedagogical practice also conveyed a great deal of how one can learn about the contexts that one if grounded and become critically aware of it. Whether it was undoing of caste hierarchies as a way of life within the Sabarmati Ashram or elsewhere his pedagogy was deeply ingrained in the everyday life and on many occasions did reflect the possibilities of producing critical consciousness. Marxists such as Glenn Rikowski, on the other hand, would argue that teachers and trainers as labour, though, are “implicated” in producing their opposite (i.e., capital) they also hold a position of advantage which is of

“socially producing the single commodity – labour-power – on which the whole capitalist system rests. This gives them a special sort of social power. They work at the chalkface of capital’s weakest link, labour-power”.

This positionality that they hold allows them to look at the idea of alternatives in a completely new manner addressing questions of social justice, equality and commodification.In other words, if the idea of education is to produce critical consciousness and if the teachers are in a position to intervene in the process of education (for critical consciousness) the question that would emerge is what are the ways in which they can do that. At the school level, this can be experimented through involvement of teachers in the process of framing pedagogies and curriculum.

Given that the state run schools still constitute the majority in the country this proposal seeks to involve the teachers as extremely important stakeholders in the process of education to see how they play an important role in creating what one may call “emancipative pedagogies”.

In order to begin looking at this huge task it is important to begin by doing an analysis of what is being taught. And it would be furthermore interesting to look at what is being taught in the systems which swear by the agenda of ‘social justice’. Hence, the state of Bihar in India for obvious reasons became an obvious choice. Now, emerged the question of operationalization, which is also linked to the task of conscientisation, as Freire would argue. In order to make this whole process organic teachers were involved to do an analysis of the social science textbooks in the schools. So that they would not only know where the problem lies but would also be able to point out in the subsequent stage what/how shouldthose problems be overcome in pedagogy and curriculum.Thus, the report on ‘Curriculum, Pedagogy and Social Transformation’ came into existence. We are now looking forward to possibilities of creating an alternative textbook which would look at how the idea of ‘social justice’ becomes part of the curricular and pedagogical practice. This would allow realization of how an alternative world could be imagined working through the machinations that the rule of capital itself has produced.

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