MST organizational principles and pedagogy

Tord Björk | education,MST | Sunday, March 29th, 2009


” MST pedagogy based on direct democracy, social and self consciousness is what every school should be based upon everywhere in the world.”

Pertti Simula

Pertti Simula at MST Headqarters in Sao Paulo

Interview with Pertti Simula, bar Cortas, Avenida Alfonso Bovero, esquina Rua Apinajes, 18.1 2009, Sao Paulo

Food time at Jair Costa MST camp

What are the key organizing principles behind Movimento Sem Terra?

Their model of social organisation is based on participatory democracy locally in groups with about 10 families each, so called nucleo de base. This makes it possible to have all important decision making be taken through a direct democratic process. In MST this is called organizidade – it means more than just organisation – it is a living organisation.

The other important aspects of organizidade is ”critica – auto critica”. That means that everybody is supposed to take part with a process of selfconsciousness. This takes place in collective forms for instance once a year or when needed. So that everybody in the collective gets an idea how others are seeing upon ones performance in relation to work and collective actvitity.

A third point could be that organizadade is a loose and open form of organisation. Local as well as state level are independent and it is not possible to command the organisation from the national level.

Besides this two other aspects are important:
1.    Rotation principle for different functions and responsibilities in the movement, everybody is nourished to leran so many activities and functions as possible.
2.    The women schould be represented by 50 percent in coordinating positions, Many times hard to live up to but it is always addressed.

In organizidade there are a traditional representative democratic organization, too, that means that in the local , state and national levels representatives and cooprdinators are elected to different activities. To speak in the name of MST one refers to his/her area of responsability.

Pupils cleaning at Escuela Educar in Rio Grande do Sul


How do you look upon the pedagogy of MST?

I Believe that MST pedagogy is based very much on Paulo Freire and Anton Makarenko. A pedagogy very much based on social consciousness, participatory organized school forms with direct democracy and self consciousness. The children take part in the discussion in pedagogical methods and in developing rules and cooperation principles. It is a challenging process.

Pertti Simula to the right educating in the field

You have been to the schools. How would you say that the key problems are in implementing the vision both in terms of the different aspects?

As the teachers usually have the normal pedagogical schooling, they are not familiarized in participatory school systems. First they have to ”buy” the idea and then can implement it with the children. The social and self consciousness are also matters that teachers who come outside the MST culture have to learn first. The classroom of for instance 60 students is divided in 6 basic teams (nucleo de base). And the discussions in decision processes start from these units, their recomendations are taken to the group of coordenators. It´s members are elected by usual democratic process. The group of coordinators analyzes the recomendations and then formulates the decision. The democratic decision is taken to the executive organization to be implemented. Basic teams discuss everything, like  pedagogical goals, pedagogical methods, the rules of how to cooperate, how to maintain discipline, the criteria of evaluation of students and educators.

Group educational work at Cooptar

The student support concerning the individual and social well-being, pedagogical development and discipline is organized  partly by the students selves. E.g. when one class graduates a couple of students are invited to follow up the next class.

Pedagogical goals are mainly decided by the board of the school but students can discuss and analyze them. I have especially contact with schools like ITERRA, CEAGRO, Educar and Escola Nova Sociedade. There are differences between the schools, they are in different phases of the process.

The public schools at the settlement areas have special difficulties to implement the principles which are not standard. This means that there is a constant discussion and gradual implementing.

MST meeting at Vuoma

What is the problem when MST ideals collides the ideals of the public schools system?

In an ordinary public school the students are prepared to be laborforce (employees), not to think and analyze the social structure, not to create a critical look, not to create participatory manners. But the goal is to submit the children to the capitalism. MST will develop a critical view on social problems and injustice. MST want people to take responsibility and initiative in their lives instead of developing dependency on employers or/and state. MST will that people can really participate, that they develop self confidence and self consciousness, so they can live a happy life. MST want to foster social responsibility, so that everybody feels responsible for others,  and cooperation as the main principles of the society instead of competition and individualism. MST want to protect the nature against the exploitive agrobusiness. MST want that all the people have the same power and not power based on how many dollars or euros one has. MST want democracy in economy. So you see that there are a lot of conflicts with the existing power structure. But conflicts makes it possibilities to create something better. It is through conflicts that we grow to more mature and caring people.

Pupils at MST cooperative

How can MST show that these principles can be good base to be applied in the rich countries?

MST pedagogy based on direct democracy, social and self consciousness is what every school should be based upon everywhere in the world. We are exporting this kind of experience to Sweden and Finland. In Scandinavia the schools are rich materially but are poor in human aspect. There are lot of passivity, loneliness, individualism, depression, nothing matters –attitude, disturbing, bulling and  violence. The schools atmosphere suffer the common economical and social values. In November 2007 five school directors from Sweden and Finland visited  some MST schools in Brazil. This group became convinced that the MST model really works. Especially they pointed out the importance of nucleo the base (basic teams) as a real direct democratic alternative, because it is generally known that representative democracy does not work, people are alienated from decision making. The MST school model is a vanguarda,. Now in Finland and Sweden there are many schools which apply these principles in different and colourful ways. The model is applied by many teachers and directors in loose way, what they feel is best, easeast and most important, experimenting. There are a permanent discussion group which systemizes the ideas and results and develop the documenation.

Tord Björk

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