Social education in Paulo Freire’s native country Brazil

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Carlos Ribeiro | 24.06.2015 | National Affairs - Interviews
Association of Social Educators for Curitiba and Metropolitan AreaThe Portuguese Association for Promotion of Social Education (APES) recently held a National Meeting attended by 200 social educators in Almeirim in Central Portugal. Among the attendees were members of parliament, mayors, university professors and a representative of the (AESCRM), who provided an account of experiences in Brazil. We took the opportunity to interview Aline Mendes, who gave us an overview of the professional activities of social educators in Paulo Freire’s native country. 

Social educators tend to act as “normalisers” of markedly deviant social behaviours. Does this normative tendency occur in Brazil too?

In Brazil, the guiding document for the work of social educators is the National Classification of Social Assistance Services (“Tipificação Nacional dos Serviços Socioassistenciais”, BRASIL, 2009), which distinguishes between two fields of action: basic social protection, which comprises the prevention of social risks, and special social protection, which comprises assistance to those segments of the population which face social risks, i.e. homeless people, children and teenagers who have been subjected to any kind of rights violations and victims of domestic violence, among others. Accordingly, from the perspective of my activities as a social educator in the field of basic social protection in the Agency for Coexistence and Strengthening of Bonds, I can say that in certain situations this normative inclination does arise, as the aim of this agency is to prevent situations which might pose a risk to family or community coexistence and/or compromise family bonds, in the sense that our work includes activities to demarcate some of the limits of social coexistence, rights and duties, and the Statute of Children and Adolescents (BRASIL, 1990).

In the view of certain facilitators of educational activities at a local level, education is not directly connected to the everyday problems of adults and young people. Does this shift towards formal education also arise in the practice of Brazilian social educators?

Aline MendesSocial educators in Brazil operate under the National Policy for Social Assistance, which means they are social workers in non-formal educational settings. Socio-educational prevention work, in particular within the Agency for Coexistence and Strengthening of Bonds, is quite distinct from formal education; the manner in which the Agency takes action in the Social Assistance Reference Centre where I work, for example, is as follows: to begin with, an interview is conducted with the family, and the child or adolescent is enrolled in the group offering activities appropriate to their age; subsequently, the child or adolescent begins taking part in group activities, which are cultural (visual arts, theatre and music - violin lessons, choral singing and musical theory), sporting (karate) and socio-educational (social risk prevention and ensuring rights) in nature, in addition to guided visits to museums, cultural venues and musical performances. The families also receive accompaniment in the form of regular visits, the aim of which is to assess problem situations and provide whatever guidance is deemed necessary.

Paulo Freire is an inspiration to a lot of people, but not many are consistent in implementing his recommendations. In Brazil, is Paulo Freire a fashion, or a genuine inspiration to action?

Social Education in Brazil has been shaped on the basis of Social Pedagogy, as in other Latin American and European countries, in addition to drawing highly pertinent influences from the theories of Paulo Freire as regards Popular Education. In the professional practice of Brazilian Social Educators, the influence of Paulo Freire is highly relevant, in particular his work “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”, given that the profession is unregulated, and as social educators have no university-level qualification, they lack methodologies and theoretical foundations for their work. Accordingly, practice has supplanted theory, in the sense that Social Educators, as a result of Freire’s influence, have developed their own working methodologies in practice before a systematic theoretical framework was formulated.

What are the main points you would like to highlight from the APES Meeting of Social Educators in Almeirim?

I would like to highlight two important contributions from among the ideas discussed at the APES Meeting of Social Educators:

  • Social Education in the school setting: this idea, which is a well-known and widespread in Portugal, remains unknown in Brazil. Although there is an urgent need and great demand for the work of these professionals in Brazilian schools, there are no plans to incorporate Social Education into School Education, as Social Educators are governed by the National Policy for Social Assistance, which means that they are regarded as social workers rather than education workers. The projects conducted in Portuguese schools mentioned at the National Meeting, such as the TEIP -Territórios Educativos de Intervenção Prioritária (educational areas in need of priority intervention) project, the Ser Cigano (being Gypsy) project and the Atiponto project all do important work in the field of belonging, strengthening of bonds and coexistence at family and community level.
  • The professional identity of Social Educators: one of the presentations given at the National Meeting discussed what it means to be a Social Educator, how we see ourselves as professionals acting on the fragility of the “other”, seeking to motivate such individuals to see themselves as holders of rights, to believe in their own potential and to overcome the difficulties they face. This examination of professional identity needs to be valued and developed, as this is the only way in which our profession can be strengthened and given due recognition. 
  1. Do you have any plans for projects involving cooperation between Brazil and Portugal in the near future?
As vice president of the Association of Social Educators for Curitiba and Metropolitan Area (AESCRM), I have been participating in an exchange in the field of Social Education in Portugal, as a result of the invitation by the Association for Promotion of Social Education (APES) to take part in the Portuguese National Meeting of Social Educators (ENES) as a speaker. I am an international participant in the Plurality in Social Education project, which consists in an e-book offering a perspective on various fields of activity of Social Educators in Portugal and other countries, including Brazil, providing extensive insights into the profession. We also plan to form a partnership between APES and AESCRM with a view to publications, exchanges, further education, international congresses, etc.


Topics/Keywords: Politics => National politics
Subjects / Target groups => Social dialogue
Subjects / Target groups => International adult education
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About the author

Carlos RibeiroCarlos Ribeiro is leader of  Caixa de Mitos Social Innovation Agency LDA (Portugal) and AGRI Magazine editorial coordinator, combines in its professional action as a consultant social entrepreneurship activities with informal adult education, social media and citizen journalism. Member of Infonet Editorial Board and correspondent for Portugal.




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