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Hello everyone,

I am forwarding this message from Tom Sticht.

A Message for International Literacy Day September 8th, 2005

International Literacy Day and The Legacy of Paulo Freire (1921-1997)

Tom Sticht
International Consultant in Adult Education

>From 1987 through 1995 I had the honor and privilege of working with
Freire for one week each year when we both served as members of UNESCO's
International Jury that selects the literacy prize winners recognized by
UNESCO yearly on International Literacy Day

Already an international giant of adult literacy education when he
the Jury in 1987, Paulo brought his philosophy of literacy for
and freedom to the evaluation of candidatures for literacy prizes from
countries where millions of adults were oppressed. He brought a passion
the evaluation of candidatures often expressed by clenching his hands in
fist, clutching his chest and saying, "I love this program!" He was also
quick to provide a critical commentary when he thought that a program
mistakenly claimed that it followed "the Freirean method", and he
admonished the Jury that there was no such method.

During the Jury's deliberations regarding candidatures, and on our
when we would take tea or coffee, I had occasions to listen to him and
talk informally with him about his philosophy of education and literacy,
and how he had worked early on in his career with the poor and oppressed
peasants of Brazil.

Still today, millions of adults and their families around the world live
constant fear that they will not have adequate water, food, health care
security for their very lives. Many live in conditions of economic and
political oppression, and they may perceive that they have little chance
changing their lives in any significant manner. For this reason they may
elect to stay away from literacy classes. They see no use for literacy
their lives. In these circumstances Freire's approach to adult literacy
education, if not a method, as he would claim, is nonetheless an
that can instill a feeling of confidence in adult learners and motivate
them to engage in literacy learning.

In his work, Freire developed an approach to education aimed at helping
adults liberate themselves from the oppression of others. To do this he
first concentrated on  teaching adults to "read the world" so they could
then "read the word."  By "reading the world" he meant helping adults
understand the differences between the world of nature and the world of
culture. Nature is made by natural forces and is not subject to change
humans. Culture on the other hand is made by humans and can be changed
humans. We "read the world" to know what is nature and what is culture.
Oppressive conditions are cultural and hence capable of being changed by

Literacy is a technology for helping humans change the cultural contexts
which they live so that they can achieve social justice and is hence
worthwhile learning. This line of reasoning was to motivate adults to
to read and write. To start the process, Freire introduced the use of
"multiple literacies," though he did not call his practice that. He used
pictures that adult literacy students "read" to distinguish what in the
picture was due to nature and what was due to culture, i.e., human
In discussing the pictures, the adults demonstrated that they possessed
lot of knowledge about the world, including both nature and culture.
knowledge was drawn on in teaching reading.

Freire listened to the adult learners discuss pictures depicting various
situations and then chose words that the students used to start the
of teaching literacy. Words with a lot of emotional meaning, such as
"favela" (slum) were selected to teach decoding of the written language.
The word was first discussed, along with a picture of a situation
by the word. Then the word was broken into syllables -FA-VE-LA. This was
continued until the word could be read (decoded) fluently. This method
"reading the world" and then "reading the word" was used extensively to
build on the knowledge that adults possessed  and to teach them to read
language that they used to express their knowledge. Then new knowledge
introduced to stimulate adults to take actions to change their

Freire contrasted this learner-centered, participatory approach in which
adults helped determine the content and direction of their own education
with the more traditional, school-centered education in which
administrators or teachers determine the content and direction of
and attempt to deposit and "bank" knowledge in learner's minds even if
do not understand the value of the new knowledge.

In 1975 Paulo Freire was awarded a UNESCO Literacy Prize for his work on
pedagogy of the oppressed. Over a quarter century later, in 2003, a
non-governmental organization called the International Reflect Circle
(CIRAC) was awarded a UNESCO literacy prize for its work which built
the work of Freire. The acronym REFLECT stands for Regenerated Freirean
Literacy through Empowering Community Techniques.

The REFLECT approach to adult literacy development makes use of
literacies", much as did Freire in using pictures and other graphic
to help adults "read the world."  To assist adults in capturing their
knowledge the REFLECT teachers show them how to make maps of their
communities, construct matrices, flow charts, and other graphics to
their needs and assist them in arguing for needed services and social

REFLECT makes use of internet technologies and has formed an
network of some 350 organizations and individuals in 60 nations to
facilitate sustainable community development using a participatory and
democratic process of reflection by adults in the development of their
literacy education.

Through the work of REFLECT and numerous other groups around the world,
Paulo Freire's learner-centered, participatory approach to adult
education continues to help marginalized, socially excluded adults
the confidence and abilities they need to not just "read the world," but
change it. This is an enduring legacy of the work of Paulo Freire.

This year celebrate Paulo Freire's work and the work of tens of
thousands of
adult literacy educators and their students around the world on
8th, International Literacy Day.

Thomas G. Sticht
International Consultant in Adult Education
2062 Valley View Blvd.
El Cajon, CA 92019-2059
Tel/fax: (619) 444-9133

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