Applying Paulo Freire’s Critical Pedagogy to TVET

Applying Paulo Freire’s Critical Pedagogy to TVET

In Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), there is a profound opportunity to reshape traditional teaching methodologies by embracing the principles of Paulo Freire’s critical pedagogy principles. Freire, a Brazilian educator and philosopher, revolutionised educational theory with his emphasis on dialogue, critical thinking, and the empowerment of learners. His ideas, particularly those encapsulated in his seminal work Pedagogy of the Oppressed, provide a robust framework for transforming TVET into a more engaging, equitable, and socially responsible form of education.

Critical Pedagogy: An Overview

Freire’s critical pedagogy challenges the conventional “banking model” of education, where students are passive recipients of knowledge deposited by teachers. Instead, he advocates for a “problem-posing” model, where education is a collaborative process between teachers and students, enabling critical consciousness and active participation in learning. This approach is characterised by dialogue, reflection, and action, aimed at transforming not only the learners but also the socio-economic conditions in which they live.

Relevance to TVET

TVET focuses on equipping individuals with practical skills and knowledge for specific trades and professions. While traditionally viewed as a means to enhance employability, TVET often neglects the broader educational objectives of critical thinking and social awareness. Integrating Freire’s critical pedagogy into TVET can address this gap by promoting a more holistic form of education that prepares learners to excel in their chosen fields and become informed, active citizens.

Dialogue and Collaboration

Central to Freire’s philosophy is the idea of dialogue. In the context of TVET, this means creating an environment where learners and educators engage in meaningful conversations about the curriculum, its relevance, and its application to real-world situations. This collaborative approach can help demystify complex concepts, making them more accessible and relevant to students’ lives and future careers.

Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving

Freire emphasises the importance of critical thinking and problem-solving. In TVET, this can be implemented through project-based learning, where students tackle real-life challenges related to their fields of study. This enhances their practical skills and encourages them to question existing practices and seek innovative solutions. For example, engineering students might work on sustainable energy projects, prompting them to think critically about environmental issues and the role of technology in addressing them.

Empowerment and Social Responsibility

A key tenet of Freire’s pedagogy is the empowerment of learners to effect social change. TVET programmes can incorporate this by including ethics, social justice, and community engagement modules. By understanding the broader impact of their work, students can be inspired to use their skills for the greater good. For instance, healthcare training programmes can include community health projects, encouraging a sense of responsibility and commitment to improving local health outcomes.

Case Study: Engineering Apprenticeships

To illustrate the application of Freire’s critical pedagogy in TVET, consider an apprenticeship training provider delivering engineering apprenticeships. Traditionally, these programmes focus heavily on technical skills, often through classroom instruction and on-the-job training. By integrating Freirean principles, the provider can significantly enrich the educational experience.

1. Dialogue and Reflection

Incorporate regular dialogue sessions where apprentices discuss their learning experiences, challenges they face in the workplace, and broader issues related to the engineering industry. These discussions can be facilitated by educators but driven by the apprentices, ensuring a two-way exchange of ideas. For example, apprentices working on automotive engineering projects could discuss the environmental impact of vehicle emissions and explore sustainable alternatives.

2. Problem-Posing Projects

Shift from traditional assessments to problem-posing projects that require apprentices to address real-world engineering problems. For instance, apprentices could be tasked with designing a community centre’s cost-effective, energy-efficient heating system. This project would not only require technical knowledge but also critical thinking and creativity, aligning with Freire’s emphasis on problem-solving.

3. Social Responsibility and Community Engagement

Embed social responsibility into the curriculum by involving apprentices in community-based projects. For example, engineering apprentices could collaborate with local organisations to develop infrastructure solutions for underserved areas. This might include designing water purification systems for rural communities or creating accessible public transport options for people with disabilities. Such projects encourage apprentices to consider the social implications of their work and facilitate a sense of civic duty.

4. Ethical Considerations

Introduce modules on engineering ethics, where apprentices explore the ethical dimensions of engineering practice. Discussions could cover topics such as the ethical use of artificial intelligence in engineering, the responsibilities of engineers to public safety, and the environmental impacts of engineering projects. These modules can help apprentices develop a deeper understanding of their profession’s moral and ethical responsibilities.

Challenges and Considerations

Implementing Freire’s critical pedagogy in TVET is not without challenges. It requires a shift in mindset from both educators and institutions, moving away from traditional, hierarchical education models. There is also the practical consideration of balancing the demands of a skills-based curriculum with the broader goals of critical pedagogy. However, the potential benefits – including more engaged learners, higher retention rates, and skilled and socially conscious graduates – make it a worthwhile endeavour.


Applying Paulo Freire’s critical pedagogy to TVET represents a significant step towards creating a more inclusive and transformative educational experience. By promoting dialogue, critical thinking, and social responsibility, TVET can produce competent professionals and empowered individuals who are equipped to contribute positively to society. As we navigate the complexities of the modern world, integrating Freire’s principles into TVET offers a path towards a more just and equitable educational landscape.


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