At Foundation for Change we believe in the transformative power of education, and that everyone has a right and the ability to learn about themselves and the world around them – we see the value and importance of this every day in our work.

Knowledge is power but access to that learning can have barriers whether they are from a culture that monetizes education, shows one side of history or a system that does not see the importance of adults developing their capacity to think critically throughout their lives. An education system is not set up for traveller children or those in hostels and temporary housing. 

Our own experiences in childhood, and of education can also leave us with insecurities which stop us believing in what we are capable of. We hope that our graduates time with us at Foundation for Change has shown them how incredibly competent they are and that we all have the ability to understand theories and concepts that would be taught at university level education.

My own personal learning journey with Foundation for Change is echoed within this quote from bell hooks.

“I came to theory because I was hurting—the pain within me was so intense that I could not go on living. I came to theory desperate, wanting to comprehend—to grasp what was happening around and within me. Most importantly, I wanted to make the hurt go away. I saw in theory a location for healing.”

bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom

Our work is not just to share information but to share in the intellectual and emotional growth that we see our trainees experience within our courses. Knowledge shared from our lived experiences, where learning is contextual and meaningful, shining a light on power hierarchies, engaging, and demanding a critical and self-reflective practice, and ultimately inspiring each of us to new forms of knowledge, ways of knowing, thinking, and instilling the courage and potential to transform your world / our world / the world.

We do this at Foundation for Change in a radical way of learning about ourselves through education, through thinking critically and systemically, and by developing group dynamics that support a safe place to look at who we are, what has happened in our lives to shape us, and what brought us through the doors in the first place.

This approach to teaching is called ‘critical pedagogy’ and was initially a concept founded by Paolo Freire.

The word ‘pedagogy’ is pronounced “peh-duh-gow-jee,” and is a term that refers to the method of how someone teaches, in theory and in practice. Pedagogy is formed by an educator's teaching beliefs and concerns the interplay between culture and different ways to learn.

Through his work and writings in ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’, Paolo Freire acknowledged the huge impact that social inequality, particularly poverty, had on someone’s access to education. He also recognised the importance of people being able to critique the systems of power and inequality that affected their lives –something that he called being able to ‘read the world’.

He believed that learning and education is a process and should take place on an equal footing, where there was conversation, interaction, self-reflection, and that ultimately ‘education should be a practice of freedom’, not one of domination.

bell hooks is a Black feminist educator and author of the book ‘Teaching to Transgress’, who expanded on Paolo’s work and introduced the term ‘radical pedagogy’. Within this she brings together both feminist and critical perspectives on education – where she specifically acknowledges women’s lives and oppression.

In particular bell hooks recognises that both critical and feminist pedagogy start from a position that each person holds knowledge of themselves and their lived experiences in the world. This can be shared or very different depending on how each person is situated within social positions yet learning and understanding is believed to come from the sharing of this knowledge.

 ‘ideas are not neutral, that to teach in a way that liberates, that expands consciousness, that awakens, is to challenge domination at its very core’.

bell hooks

What next?

After completing courses with us, many graduates talk about their desire to continue learning, yet they don’t always know where to start. This is an area of support for trainees and graduates that we are currently strengthening and hope our community network can help us to achieve this.

There are different ways to access and engage with further learning – courses can be different lengths, some are online or in-person, some have qualifications, some don’t – you get the picture.
Finding something you’re interested in and an approach to learning that works for you is what matters – knowing where to start looking though is crucial!

The Workers Education Association (WEA), Open University (OU) and Mary Ward Centre are few places which provide a range of courses for adults.

The WEA was founded in 1903 to help adults access education locally and is still run as small local community resources across the UK, with tutors specialising in a huge variety of subjects. They also do online classes too and you can find out about the WEA learning experience in this short 60 second video!

The Mary Ward Centre is a great resource for adult learning in London and has just moved to Stratford. They have a great creative practice and run many other interesting courses. If you are interested in some solo self-teaching and have a spare few hours, the Open University has some courses that give taster readings from their longer supported courses.

As it's now summer, education services like the ones above are sharing new timetables and new courses starting in September. I hope that some of the suggestions here will stimulate some interest in you to keep searching for further learning.

And please know you can get in touch with any questions, comments, or feedback you have about your further learning experiences! We’d love to hear from you.