Critical Pedagogy

The concept of critical pedagogy can be traced back to Paulo Freire’s best-known 1968 work, ‘The Pedagogy of the Oppressed’.

Freire, a professor of history and the philosophy of education at the University of Recife in Brazil, sought in this and other works to develop a philosophy of adult education that demonstrated solidarity with the poor in their common struggle to survive by engaging them in a dialogue of greater awareness and analysis.

The influential works of Freire made him arguably the most celebrated critical educator. He seldom used the term “critical pedagogy” himself when describing this philosophy. His initial focus targeted adult literacy projects in Brazil and later was adapted to deal with a wide range of social and educational issues.

Critical pedagogy is a philosophy of education and social movement that has developed and applied concepts from critical theory and related traditions to the field of education and the study of culture.

Advocates of critical pedagogy view teaching as an inherently political act, reject the neutrality of knowledge and insist that issues of social justice and democracy itself are not distinct from acts of teaching and learning. The goal of critical pedagogy is emancipation from oppression through an awakening of critical consciousness.

When achieved, critical consciousness encourages individuals to affect change in their world through social critique and political action. It does not take anything for granted rather it makes the critical judgments of the granted things.

Critical pedagogy recognizes the influence that the lack of education has on the oppression of impoverished people. One of the primary goals of education is to help people develop critical consciousness.

Critical consciousness is the ability to assess the political and social structures that exist and to empower people to question authority and speak out against injustices.

We cannot simply attempt to cultivate the intellect without changing the unjust social context in which such minds operate.

Critical educators cannot just work to change the social order without helping to educate a knowledgeable and skillful group of students. Creating a just, progressive, creative, and democratic society demands both dimensions of this pedagogical progress.


  1. It views learning as an active and creative process through critically thinking.
  2. Learners are at the center of teaching and learning activity, where they should struggle to gain such knowledge which helps them to fight against inequality and injustice in the classroom.
  3. It opines that all children are equally important and have the equal potentiality to be educationally successful people.
  4. Critical pedagogy values and rejects the idea of curriculum knowledge as a sacred text. It means to say that, it opines that curriculum knowledge is not all in all.
  5. Critical pedagogy does not only look for negative aspects of something rather it looks for positive aspects too.
  6. Teachers should provide the students with the opportunity to critically reflect and act on their position within society. Moreover, they should be a source of changes in students’ lives.
  7. Critical pedagogy views that schooling is deeply influenced by the larger social and political contexts in which it is situated. In other words, learning is locally situated matter or location-specific.
  8. Critical pedagogy rejects the concepts as pre-defined methods, pre-constructed knowledge, objectivity, scientific facts, and so on.

Practical Application

In the classroom, this means that teachers and students participate in discussions in which both parties ask questions and reflect on answers. Before a lesson, the teacher asks participants questions that are used to create a list of topics that are relevant to that group of students. Once a list has been established, the teacher uses this list to create thematic class discussions.

Through the discussion process, participants begin to look critically at their own reality and the social structure of their community. Learners are engaged in the learning process because the discussions are based on their experiences. In this regard, Brown (2001, p.444) has suggested the following principles for engaging in critical pedagogy while fully respecting the values and beliefs of the students.

  • Allow students to express themselves openly.
  • Genuinely respect students’ points of view.
  • Encourage both sides of the issue.
  • Do not force your students to think like you.

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