Friday, 24 January 2014

community education

Broadly, we can approach community education as 'education for community within community'. In other words, something called 'community' is not just the place or context in which education is to occur, fostering community is also a central concern. The process of becoming part of an existing social network in order to encourage dialogue and learning is sometimes labelled as informal education in UK discussions or as community education in Scottish debates. For example, CeVe (Scotland) have defined community education as:

..a process designed to enrich the lives of individuals and groups by engaging with people living within a geographical area, or sharing a common interest, to develop voluntarily a range of learning, action and reflection opportunities, determined by their personal, social, economic and political needs. (CeVe 1990: 2)
However, this particular definition does not put 'education for community' at the centre of the work (although some practitioners may interpret it to do so) - and this dilutes the concept somewhat.

Community education in its stronger sense has parallels in the tradition of community organization in the USA, sozial p├Ądagogik in Germany, animation in France and socio-cultural work in Belgium. Furthermore, it links up with the thinking and practice of those who have worked for community-based, and democratic schooling - and for child-centred education. If approached in many Southern countries, then our focus would most likely be non-formal education or community participation. It could be seen as close to the Latin American tradition of popular education or the French tradition of la vie associative with its emphasis on association.

Different practice traditions have arisen in various contexts - but there are some important points of contact and exchange. They have not grown in isolation. For example, in recent years the work of Paulo Freire has been influential in each. We can also draw lines historically - for example from Rousseau through key thinkers in the social pedagogy tradition to Dewey and then on through Lindeman and others to community organization and informal education. Each tradition of practice provides a way to the others - and it is perhaps most helpful to think of them as always existing in relation to one another.