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Amherst College

Publication Date

Spring 2009

Program Name

Brazil: Culture, Development, and Social Justice


Traditional authoritarian-based education practices are arranged in an oppressive structure—one which sees students as sterile receptacles whom should be rid of as much subjective interpretation of the deposited material as possible. This paper is an ethnographic and participatory-observatory study of a school which, contrary to this oppressive system, prioritizes and celebrates the complex personal identities of its members. Born of a local social movement to provide the systematically-marginalized population with pre-primary education, Escola Comunitária Luiza Mahin in Uruguai, Bahia strives to create conscientious, active, and informed future citizens through liberatory education. The educators at this school utilize an integrative approach to validate the diverse experiences of each student in their complete life—both in and out of the classroom. Understanding that a dynamic presentation of information allows for personal interaction with the material, they employ creative and differentiated techniques in the classroom to inspire each child to realize that learning is central to their everyday lives. If the learning environment validates the realities of the community, then all the community can become a place to learn. My research objective is to observe and interact with this community in order to evaluate the success of these theories in practice. How can the realms of “community” and “school” be interlinked in order for students to reclaim intellectual curiosity? And how should these realms be integrated in teachers’ lives in order for them to be able to play their key role in the realization of this process? This study hopes to lead to a better understanding of how such liberatory teaching can be made possible by studying the specific example forged by Escola Comunitária Luiza Mahin.


Educational Psychology | International and Comparative Education | Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education


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