Popular education is a process of moving individuals outside of traditional learning structures. Very much in line with our commitment sector, the editorial staff wants to be aware of the current challenges of this concept affecting young people and for the most part, empowering every citizen who wants to act on his or her own. in his social environment. Interview with researcher Emmanuel Porte of INJEP (National Institute for Youth and Popular Education).
- Popular education, what exactly are we talking about?
Popular education is an ancient concept. In these beginnings, discussions began in the context of the French Revolution. The debate has to do with the fact that education must be considered not to be underestimated during school hours.
It was a long journey throughout the 20th century based on an associative initiative to promote popular education, outside of school, as an alternative or complementary. After the second half of the 20th century, it was a sector supported by the State, the Ministry of Youth and Sports. It anchors this popular public policy education to young people, especially by structuring diplomas or state certifications (BAFA, etc.).
Recently, popular education has emerged in civic movements, such as the days of Nuit Debout, where a popular education commission was created from the beginning and operated to the end. In one of the programs of the Musée du quai Branly, there is a famous university of education.
We see within the institutions, which do not have to be dedicated to popular education, an initiative that makes it possible to increase the mobility capacity of citizens. For many, popular education is closely linked toempowermenta collective framework in which people are informed, trained and released.
- Who are the actors in popular education?
Major acts such as La Ligue de l’enseignement (1866) were rather complementary from the beginning, as they were born at the same time (or even earlier) when the public secular school in the Republic was created. There are also new forms of active pedagogical practices such as Montessori, Freinet, and others. or scientific and technical culture, such as Les Petits Débrouillards and their educational kits for experimentation.
Scouts are also part of these popular educational activities. And recently, there have been networks such as Francas, Léo Lagrange, Rural Families, and structures created in the legacy of social centers, the Youth and Culture Centers or the Social Centers.
- What are the issues now?
The most recent popular education charter published in 2005 considers the development of alternative pedagogies as an art of educating oneself and others.
The main idea is that the citizen is considered an actor in his or her formation and in his or her learning of the group. Contrary to the school model, which puts the student in a passive situation.
- For whom is this popular education?
Popular education is aimed at all audiences. Even in France, it is very youth-centered. In contemporary times, researchers are agreeing on a revival of popular education, with more and more collectives, approaching this idea, looking to it for promises of pedagogy and citizen emancipation.
Many associations call themselves popular education, not just those centered on youth. They are more alternative and militant collectively, less supported by the state.
In the field of economics, there is ATTAC, a popular education association that focuses on action. Framasoft, in the digital sector, defends free software, and claims to have made popular education focused on free education. It is also claimed by student associations such as Afev or Animafac.
- What place does digital have in this alternative education?
It aims to integrate digital technology into old pedagogical practices, in terms of its effects and its philosophy. For example, among scouts, the smartphone can disrupt the practice of camp life. Some groups forbid them to preserve a framework cut off from networks. Some recommend them – because it’s hard to live unconnected – and integrate them into practice activities using the tools available inside (compass, photo, geolocation, etc.).
At MJCs or Social Centers, teachers have to control young people’s access to digital technology, it’s an obligation. While they prefer they reflect on using the mobile phone every day to create commitment, participation and freedom.
During my research, we suggested young people aged 12 to 15, who live in the same territory, to experience smartphone use in a very different way than they usually do. Each of them, on the way to the MJC, had to take photographs to document the fauna and flora, the elements of art crossed. So, thanks to geolocated GPS coordinates and photos, we were able to document Wikipedia in one place.
This collective data production project promotes citizen engagement, questions the relationship between technology tools and positions facilitators as real educators. There are many similar initiatives, but it is hard to count. They are also at the heart of today’s questions about popular education.
- There are social fractures in the face of digital technology. What are the responses to popular education?
The diagnoses made by the National Digital Council ten years ago on the challenges of digital inclusion are still relevant. It is a community of professionals, from associations and popular education, who manage these questions through digital mediation.
The problems of electronics are above all the problems of numerical iterative, understanding the device and why it is used. People are changing habits in using digital interfaces, but never know what they are doing as a citizen when they share personal data. This is an important issue for popular education to support these citizens, young or not, in liberating digital use. It also raises the question of an open Internet where citizens will be able to sort relevant content from those that are not.
Associations such as CEMEA (Training Center for Active Methods) train socio-cultural facilitators who work with young people so they have healthy and emancipatory digital practices. The Framasoft association also has a role to play in thinking about the choice of tools.
- How about educating yourself on your own in the face of digital excesses?
The choice of tools is not neutral. The use of social networks offered by GAFA or free software is not the same. If we are on closed platforms, where we cannot change it, it is less adapted to the pedagogy of popular education in and through digital. The free software allows it to be reused and allows the citizen to contribute to it.
Free software and reflections in common are two important sources of change in the mindset of freedom that have affected associations as a result of popular education.