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Critical Pedagogy - A Comprehensive Guide


Times are evolving, and so is our education system, which has started to emphasize the concept of a more inclusive and child-centered classroom. These days, Critical Pedagogy is not a new concept for people in the education sector and teachers. But why is it gaining so much importance?

Various teaching methodologies and approaches have evolved in education, each reflecting different philosophies and perspectives. One such approach that has gained prominence in recent decades is "Critical Pedagogy." This educational framework goes beyond traditional teaching methods and encourages critical thinking, empowerment, and social transformation.

What does Critical Pedagogy mean?

The teaching concept known as critical pedagogy encourages teachers and instructors to support students in challenging, oppressive and overwhelming situations. The foundation lies in the concept of 'critical theory, which calls for recognizing and challenging the social order. The main motive of this pedagogy is to help students examine and confront the injustices in families, societies, schools, and universities by using the teacher's knowledge and understanding as an example.

Critical Pedagogy asks teachers to reject the notion of knowledge as neutral or objective and, instead, present knowledge as subjective and support students in questioning the power structures that have been put in place to uphold the status quo. This happens in light of our understanding of knowledge construction and majority education.

Critical Pedagogy is about challenging the traditional power structures in education and fostering a more equitable and just society through teaching and learning.

Fundamental Principles of Critical Pedagogy:

  1. Critical Thinking: Critical Pedagogy strongly emphasises developing students' critical thinking skills. It encourages learners to question, analyse, and evaluate information critically rather than passively accepting it. This empowers them to make informed decisions and engage actively in learning.
  2. Empowerment: A central tenet of Critical Pedagogy is empowering learners to become agents of change. It encourages students to recognize their potential to transform their own lives and society as a whole. Individuals can gain the tools and knowledge needed to address social injustices through education.
  3. Dialogue and Communication: Critical Pedagogy promotes open dialogue and communication between educators and students. This creates a democratic classroom environment where diverse perspectives are valued and discussed.
  4. Social Justice: Critical Pedagogy is deeply rooted in pursuing social justice. It challenges societal inequalities and aims to eliminate oppression, discrimination, and inequity. Educators using this approach often focus on race, class, gender, and power dynamics.
  5. Reflection and Action: Critical Pedagogy encourages a cycle of thought and action. Learners are prompted to reflect on their experiences and the broader societal context, leading to informed action and social change.

Origin of Critical Pedagogy

Paulo Freire, a Brazilian philosopher and educator, established the concept of Critical Pedagogy and popularised it with his 1968 book, 'Pedagogy of the Oppressed.' Following that, it gained popularity across the globe, with a solid foundation in the United States, where its proponents worked to find ways to use education to fight oppression like racism and sexism. As it developed, it absorbed ideas from several disciplines, including postmodern theory, feminist theory, postcolonial theory, queer theory, the human rights movement, the civil rights movement, the disability rights movement and the indigenous rights movement.

Freire supports students' capacity for critical thought regarding their educational circumstances; those who practice critical pedagogy believe that this way of thinking enables students to "recognize connections between their problems and experiences and the social contexts in which they are embedded."

Features of Critical Pedagogy

Any pedagogy should be mindful of the reality that education is intrinsically political, according to critical pedagogy.

  • It emphasizes conversation over one-way knowledge transfer. Dialogue is necessary to start the awareness process since man does not construct himself in silence but through words, acts, and reflection. The primary component of the learning process is the employment of such a discussion.
  • Education should be based on a social and educational vision of justice and equality.
  • Education ought to encourage the development of the mind and emancipatory change.
  • Education should emphasize the importance of human freedom from oppression and suffering.
  • It envisions a new world, one that is more democratic, just, and equal.

Banking System of Education

Paulo Freire used the ironic term "banking system education" to refer to the current educational system. He did this because the traditional educational system involves teachers depositing knowledge and information into students' empty accounts, much like one would do with a bank account. According to Friere, conventional education is an act of depositing in which the instructor is the depositor, and the pupils are the depositories. In this educational approach, the teacher lectures, and the pupils listen, retain, and repeat.

Dialogical Method

Paulo Friere suggests problem-posing as an alternative to the current oppressive and authoritarian banking education system. The idea behind it is that students learn best when they build their information rather than when it is created for them.

Critical Consciousness

Freire's education aims to develop students ' conscientization or critical consciousness (critical awareness). Conscientization is the capacity to understand the roots of social, political, and economic oppression critically and to act to combat these forces in society. It is a condition of profound knowledge of the world and the ensuing liberation from oppression.


Praxis refers to the process of learning as a combination of contemplation and action (theory and practice). Praxis refers to applying a theory in a real-world setting. Friere believed that the aim of problem-posing education was praxis (informed action). Praxis, according to him, is the process of reflecting on the world and taking action to change it. It is a complex process by which people shape culture and society and develop into critically aware beings. It entails the growth of critical consciousness in addition to social action.

Enabling Critical Pedagogy in Classrooms

Critical pedagogy is more than just a theory; it is an inclusive teaching method in which teachers take into account how students' various identities will affect their time in the classroom. Critical educators accept variety and even modify teachings and assessments to better meet the needs of their students, as opposed to fighting against or ignoring pupils with different viewpoints.

Critical pedagogy supports multicultural education and culturally sustaining pedagogies that bridge the gap between mainstream and cultural knowledge by putting students' experiences at the center of the curriculum since children learn best when they can personally relate to education and training materials. When maintaining pluralism is the goal in the classroom, students' community behaviors are therefore viewed as strengths.

The instructor or teacher shouldn't think knowledge is simply contained in the curriculum's material. The story, the play, and the students' cultural displays are just a few of the various tools the instructor can employ. These kinds of tools empower the learners and encourage their creativity and critical thinking. The teacher can also foster a community in the classroom where students can take on different roles and use their existing knowledge to learn more.

Impact of Critical Pedagogy on Education:

  1. Empowered Learners: Critical Pedagogy allows students to take control of their learning, fostering a sense of agency and autonomy.
  2. Critical Thinkers: By promoting necessary thinking skills, this approach equips students to analyse information, identify biases, and make informed decisions.
  3. Social Awareness: Critical Pedagogy encourages students to be socially aware and active. They become more attuned to issues of social justice and inequality, and they are motivated to take action to address these issues.
  4. Inclusive Classrooms: Through dialogue and open communication, Critical Pedagogy creates inclusive classrooms where all voices are valued. It challenges traditional power dynamics, making education more accessible to marginalised groups.
  5. Transformative Education: Ultimately, Critical Pedagogy seeks to transform not only individual lives but society. It aims to break down barriers and create a more just and equitable world.


Various disciplines will require different approaches to adopting critical pedagogy, and what works in one class might not work in another. A history instructor might contest a historically accepted progressive event, while a literature instructor might raise concerns about a book's depiction of a typical cultural stereotype. On the other hand, a science instructor might advise pupils to consider how scientific advancements have affected underrepresented groups. Finding connections across subjects is frequently required because the critical approach is not limited to a single field of study or culture.

Suggested Read - A Guide to Innovative Pedagogy

Teachmint provides ed-infra to educational institutions. With our state-of-the-art lms portal, teachers can improve the teaching-learning experience. Our tools like user management help schools manage their everyday activities hassle-free.

In conclusion, critical thinking, open dialogue, and a commitment to social justice, can transform teaching and society for the better. Educators who embrace Critical Pedagogy can inspire a new generation of informed, engaged, and socially conscious citizens.

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