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Perspectives of popular education in Colombia: A look from the experience (Bogotá working group)

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Art and Education Unit: Monica Romero, Patricia Triana

First we note important context related to popular education in Colombia, showing the influence of the pedagogical movement, the beginnings of participatory research in the field of education and social scientists. On the other hand we review from a cultural perspective, the work of art collectives and non‐formal education that focused not only on literacy but in forming public. This transition between the educational and the artistic is located on the experience of an educational institution that sees school governance as a current appropriation and as a recovery of some principles of popular education. From these places we ask questions about the transformation that popular education has taken.


  • Pedagogical Movement: 80’s. Teachers as cultural workers (Official Document in tension: Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers (1966) Unesco)
  • Institutional projects in arts: Auxiliary Centers of Teaching Services; Experimental Pilot Centers. Since 1976
  • Arts and cultural organizations are organized in different popular movements. The strongest and most recognized is given from the popular theater and the new movement of Latin American theater. The principle of collective creation is fundamental.
  • The emergence of radio and television also transform the ways of literacy. Radio Sutatenza, recently declared Unesco heritage is an example.
  • The Houses of culture: They arise in the 40’s. Formalized in the 60’s. Perform sensitization processes and decentralized training. Some of them will then be popular art schools and then schools of artistic and cultural training where public formation and access to the arts as "cultural rights" is central. It democratizes in perspective of occupation and prevention of falling in the armed conflict. Specific projects in the recovery of indigenous traditions are relevant. Recently the development of projects for management and cultural entrepreneurship are central actions of these houses.

 Two events marked the changes and evolution of popular education: the rise of participatory research models, which gave a systematization north to this discourse; and the construction of an intellectual field of popular educators, a result from leftist groups and the link of university students and professionals to educational practices and policies. (...) Alfonso Torres

  • The popular in Colombia has been crossed by the conflict and the situation of undeclared war. For this, view recent arts plans music for coexistence, peace concerts and countless activities that focus on victims’ restitution and the recovery of these in the post--‐conflict.
  • Here the question arises about organizations that offer training processes in arts, which mostly has Freire as a reference, but whose practices follow conventional patterns of transmission of knowledge.

At this point we return to the school. The forms of organization of popular education gain strength officially at school in the 90’s as a way of building school autonomy, through the school governance. We share the experience located in one of the educational institutions with whom we have close nexus. When we asked for the specific relations of popular education these annotations arose:

We start from specific classrooms, the "Colegio Integrado Campestre Colombia Hoy " in Facatativa. There private education is understood as an opportunity to raise alternative educational models different from those provided by public education. Among other experiences, we presented regarding popular education, the one being carried out with school governance.

Autonomy is one of the most important values to work. It also reflects on the original meaning of democracy, the meaning of politics and self--‐government. Student assemblies are held. There problems of coexistence are discussed, affecting the entire school community. It also reflects on the self--‐governance, how autonomy is experienced in daily life.

It is about the need to make decisions about the spaces, responsibilities and possibilities of school life. Become aware that to achieve what you want to do, you need to know clearly what is that you want and assume responsibly towards oneself and others. This faces children with enormous difficulty because it is not about following instructions from teachers and principals only. Initially it would seem simple: do what everyone wants. But not following instructions involves thinking, measure the possible outcomes of the actions undertaken, bearing the consequences of those actions and the mistakes made. Children assume school governance as a need to organize to "live among friends" (as they themselves say). A representative is charged with the appropriate authorities to bring the voice of all his companions.

What interests us here is to tell how from these small and big actions, community is built. The classroom becomes one of the most powerful political spaces currently if these experiences are allowed to be authentic.

Art, in all this work has a very important role. Many of the political actions and actions in relation to coexistence are assumed as a need to express through non conventional languages. By the possibilities that art spaces open in Colombia Hoy School: The radio station, the theater group, the band, the orchard centered on land heritage focused on clean seeds for exchange with other home or school gardens, aims at the reflection on intangible heritage associated with the knowledge of land, culture and territory, the recycling project, the sign language learning project, among others, allow these forms of unconventional language and at the same time make the whole experience more complex.

FOR THE DEBATE: One of the ideas is still the formation of public (not that much literacy in general), and the link between this training with entrepreneurial strategies and cultural management that leave out discussions about the appropriation that communities themselves can make of these training processes . We ask: What about this places that were founded to empower and liberate the citizen, the subject, have become cultural services providers leaving their militancy into the background? Given the frame exposed in very general lines, a careful look into what is called collaborative and/or community practices is worth. The first are more popular in the field of arts and the latter more present in the field of education that has a long history in Colombia from the work in participative action--‐research proposed by Fals Borda. The recognition of school practices that assume popular education. How do they dialogue with spheres that are outside the school?

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