Paulo Freire: works, quotes, biography, method, institute

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Paulo Reglu Neves Freire (1921-1997) was a educator, writer and philosopher Pernambuco. Having his initial training in Law, Freire gave up law and worked during the beginning of his career as a Portuguese language teacher at Colégio Oswaldo Cruz, the institution where the teacher had completed Basic Education. Freire also worked for the Social Service of Industry (SESI) as director of education and culture sector, Besides having taught Philosophy of Education at the then University of Recife.

Paulo Freire was awarded around 48 titles, between doctorates honoris causa and other honors from Brazilian and foreign universities and organizations. He is considered the Brazilian with the most doctoral degrees honoris causa and is the writer of the third most cited work in humanities works in the world: Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

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Paulo Reglu Neves Freire was born in September 19, 1921, in the city of Recife, capital of Pernambuco. Son, along with his two brothers and a sister, of a

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military police and of a housewife, Paulo Freire lost his father at the age of thirteen. His initial education included admission to the Oswaldo Cruz School, in Recife, through a scholarship granted by the director. Later, Freire became a discipline assistant and, after training, a Portuguese Language teacher.

In 1943, he joined the law course from the University of Recife and, in 1944, he married his first wife, the professor Elza Maia Costa de Oliveira, marriage that lasted until Elza's death, in 1986. In 1947, Freire was appointed director of the Department of Education and Culture, of the Social Service for Industry, starting work with the literacy for needy young people and adults and industry workers.

In 1959, Paulo Freire passed the selection process for the Chair of History and Philosophy of Education, from the School of Fine Arts of the University of Recife, with the thesis Brazilian education and current affairs. In 1961, the teacher became Director of the Department of Cultural Extensions, University of Recife, which enabled him to carry out the first broader experiences with adult literacy, which culminated in the Angicos experience.

By enabling youth and adult literacy in about 40 hours and with low costs, the method developed by Paulo Freire inspired the National Literacy Plan, which began to be headed by the Ministry of Education and Culture (MEC) still in the government of João Goulart. Angicos' experience caused an uproar in the city.

An Workers' strike on a construction site who refused to work while their rights were not guaranteed, such as paid weekly rest and a working day that respected the hours established by the Workers law consolidation (CLT), it was the beginning for the accusation of communism against the Freirean literacy project. Entrepreneurs and farmers, primarily from Rio Grande do Norte, did not accept the demands of workers, who were illiterate before and now understand their rights.

Another issue came into play on the political scene: at the time, only those who were literate could vote.. The National Literacy Plan could bring literacy to up to six million Brazilians, which would mean six million new voters outside the ruling classes. These factors were decisive for that, still in april 1964, O National Literacy Plan was called off. These were also decisive factors in the arrest of Paulo Freire, Marcos Guerra (lawyer and one of the project coordinators in Angicos) and dozens of other people, who, as in the case of Freire, were also exiles.

Paulo Freire passed 70 days stuck and was exiled. In exile, he first went to Chile, where coordinated adult literacy projects, by the Chilean Institute of Agrarian Reform, for five years. In 1969, the professor from Pernambuco was invited to to teach at Harvard University. In 1970, it was World Council of Churches consultant and coordinator emeritus (CMI), headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

Until his return to Brazil in 1980, Freire traveled to more than 30 countries through the CMI, providing educational consultancy and implementing targeted education projects for literacy, for the reduction of inequality Social and for the guarantee of rightyou. It was during this period that the Brazilian thinker implemented important educational projects in Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Zambia and Cape Verde.

In 1978, the Amnesty Law allowed the return of political exiles. In 1980, Freire returned to Brazil. After that, he started teaching at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo (PUC-SP) and at the University of Campinas (Unicamp). In 1986, his first wife, Elza, with whom he had five children, died. In 1988, Freire married his second wife, Ana Maria Araújo, with whom he remained until his death in 1997.

Between 1988 and 1991, Freire was nominated secretary of education of the city of São Paulo by the then mayor, Luiza Erundina, at the time affiliated with the Workers' Party (PT). When leaving office before the end of the term, Mario Sergio Cortella, then Freire's advisor and later his doctoral advisor at PUC-SP, held the position until 1992.

On May 2, 1997, Paulo Freire died, aged 76, after undergoing an angioplasty and presenting a complex health condition due to problems in the circulatory system. In life and posthumously, Professor Paulo Freire was awarded 48 honorary titles.

All around the world, about 350 schools and institutions, like libraries and universities, take his name as a tribute. In 2005, Deputy Luiza Erundina created a bill to recognize Paulo Freire as Patron of Brazilian Education. The bill only sanctioned in 2012, through Law 12,612/12, at the time president Dilma Rousseff.

Second survey carried out in 2016 by Elliot Greeni, researcher specializing in studies on development and learning at the London School of Economics, the work Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire, is the third most cited book in works in the area of ​​humanities in the world. By the year of the survey, Freire's book had already been quoted 72,359 times, being ahead in the ranking of thinkers such as Michel Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu and Karl Marx. Ahead of Freire were only Thomas Kuhn and Everett Rogers.

See too: Aristotle's Role in Education – the relationship between Education and Philosophy

Paulo Freire is world renowned for his works and contributions to education. (Credits: Slobodan Dimitrov / Wikimedia Commons)
Paulo Freire is world renowned for his works and contributions to education. (Credits: Slobodan Dimitrov / Wikimedia Commons)

Paulo Freire Method

at the height of Cold War, you U.S launched a project called Alliance for Progress, which aimed to leverage the process of economic growth and end what the capitalist bloc understood as “growing communism” that had been plaguing Latin America. In the understanding of who led the project, the eradication of illiteracy it would be a way to stop the socialist rise.

Brazil was one of those contemplated by the project, and in the Northeast, still in an experimental phase, the city of Angicos, in Rio Grande do Norte, was one of the first great experiences in an attempt to eradicate the illiteracy. The choice of the city and the amount allocated to the Angicos project, about 36 dollars per student, came from that North American plan. Paulo Freire elaborated the project, formed a committee of coordinators and trained teachers to apply the plan.

In 40 hours, traveled during almost a month, 300 young people and adults were literate by the method developed by Freire. The Brazilian educator criticized the model of education he called “banking education”. This model is based on the view that the teacher is the center of the process and holder of knowledge of the subjects, being responsible for depositing what he knows in his students.

Freire spoke of the importance of thinking about an education capable of recognizing the learner's culture and act based on it, on that reality, because that's the only way it would make sense for those who are going to be literate. In the philosopher's words:

the reading of the world precedes the reading of the word, hence the subsequent reading of the word cannot do without the continuity of the reading of that one.”ii

In Freire's view, the reading (and, in the same sense, writing) only will make sense if accompanied by an ability to read the world, to perceive the world, to recognize the roles played by actors in the world and to recognize oneself as a player in that world. Therefore, Freire acted based on the words that were part of the daily lives of workers in the literacy process to teach them.

Marcos Guerra, lawyer and coordinator of the project in Angicos, says that “literacy was based on 12 to 15 words only that contained all the phonemes of the Portuguese language. In the debate over the word work, what's next? Come the working conditions. There, it evokes discussions about work, working conditions [...] remuneration for work, guarantees, rights, duties”.iii Words such as brick, clay, work, toil and tile were the guidelines of the method, which does not focus on the content taught, but on the process..

Another feature of the freirean method is the attempt to take a political and class awareness for the students. Perhaps this is the factor that most aroused the anger of conservative sectors, responsible for extinguishing the National Literacy Plan and for exiling the Pernambuco teacher. The testimonies described below attest to this idea:

After the course, a strike in the city stopped the construction of a project. It is believed that they would have been inspired by teaching labor rights in the classroom, with the Freirian methodology. The workers told the owner of the company that they knew they had rights. They asked for a formal contract, paid weekly rest and vacations. And the boss said: 'I don't give that, no one does', remembers [Marcos] Guerra.


They started to claim rights, such as paid weekly rest and working hours, which were intensive and exceeded the hours established by law. They were excited about having a formal document, says retired judge Valquíria Félix da Silva, 78, who was one of the professors on the course in the city.iv

Paulo Freire's work and his method are deeply marked by the insistence on raising a new type of education, capable of giving autonomy to the dominated classes through the dialogue and of a emancipatory education.

For those who sympathize with the ideas of the philosopher from Pernambuco, this task is necessary for the creation of a new Brazil, more just and egalitarian. For those who disagree with his work (we do not intend to make a generalizing statement, as there may be punctual plausible criticisms about the method or of the Freirean work, and remembering that the critics do not assume its nullification), there is, in general, a fear that it will be the primer for making the what conservative sectors have called “Marxist indoctrination in classrooms”.

This accusation, supported nowadays by political groups linked to far right, was the same one that condemned Paulo Freire in 1964. The doctor in Education from the University of São Paulo (USP) and Freire's biographer, Sérgio Haddad, tells in an article published in Folha from São Paulo, about the written report on Freire to justify his arrest, days after his exile.

The inquiry, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Hélio Ibiapina Lima, said that Paulo Freire was “one of the most responsible for the immediate subversion of the less favored”, that “his performance in the field of literacy in adults is nothing more than an extraordinary Marxist task of politicizing them” and that Freire “is a crypto-communist hooded in the form of literacy teacher”.v

Read too: The goals of education in our society


Among publications in life, posthumous publications, letters, interviews, essays and articles, there are almost 40 published books in his work. The most important ones for understanding the intellectual trajectory of the philosopher and educator are the following:

  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed: written at the beginning of his exile, when Freire was in Chile, the book proposes a review of the relationship between educators and students. O dialogue it must be the first basis for the constitution of the teaching and learning process. According to Freire, “dialogue is an existential requirement”.saw Based on this presupposition, he recognizes that dialogic education is the key to bringing a liberating education to the masses, without excluding the masses themselves from the educational process. In his reflection, Freire asks himself: “How can I dialogue, if I start from the fact that the pronunciation of the world is task of select men and that the presence of the masses in history is a sign of their deterioration that I must avoid?"vii Recognizing the masses and others and respecting the difference of others is how the educator should act. Freire argues that the purpose of this laborious process is to provide a release: the emancipation of the masses of the oppressed through education.

  • education as a practice of freedom:written in exile after the end of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, this book is a self-criticism of your performance and a education proposal which aims to end exclusion. He points out the intrinsic relationship between education, awareness and inclusion.

  • Letters to Guinea-Bissau: book written between 1976 and 1977, a period in which Freire participated in the popular literacy project promoted in Guinea-Bissau after its independence. The set of cards that make up the work has a more reflective objective of pointing out the power, passion and creation of that newly independent people and the approximation of the African and Brazilian social reality of the time.

  • autonomy pedagogy: Freire has a very clear objective in this book to present a set of knowledge and practices indispensable to any educator. As the author himself announces in the writing, it does not matter if it is a progressive or reactionary teacher or teacher, one must know about that basic set. The book carries in its first chapter the title that summarizes much of Freire's defense in recognition of alterity and respect for the individuality of the student: “There is no teaching without learning". One of these basic elements is the recognition of the important relationship between theory and practice which must be primordial and indissoluble. According to Freire, “critical reflection on practice becomes a requirement of the Theory/Practice relationship, without which theory can become blah blah blah, and practice, activism”.viii

“Pedagogy of the Oppressed” is the third most cited work in human science works in the world. (Credits: Reproduction / Editora Paz e Terra).
“Pedagogy of the Oppressed” is the third most cited work in human science works in the world. (Credits: Reproduction / Editora Paz e Terra).

Read too: education

Paulo Freire Institute

The Paulo Freire Institute was created based on the idea of ​​the Brazilian professor of bring institutions together and implement targeted actions for education as a pillar of social inclusion and the reduction of economic inequality.

Established in April 1991 and officially founded in September 1992, the IPF has been working since then, promoting consultancy and the elaboration of projects aimed at the youth and adult education; implementation of curriculum and pedagogical political projects; and courses of training for literacy teachers and teachers in general. To learn a little more about the institute, just access the page.

Quotes by Paulo Freire

  • "The reading of the world precedes the reading of the word, hence the subsequent reading of the word cannot do without the continuity of the reading of that one."

  • "There is no teaching without a student."

  • "If education alone does not transform society, without it society will not change either."

  • "Nobody educates anybody, nobody educates himself, men educate each other, mediated by the world."

  • “Joy doesn't just come from finding the find, but it's part of the search process. And teaching and learning cannot take place out of search, out of beauty and joy.”

  • “Nobody ignores everything. Nobody knows everything. We all know something. We all ignore something. That's why we always learn.”

i Check it out here "Paulo Freire is the third most cited thinker in works around the world".

ii FREIRE, P. The importance of the act of reading. 23 ed. São Paulo: Associated Authors: Cortez, 1989. for. 11.

iii SOUZA, M. Criticized by the government, Paulo Freire's methodology revolutionized people in the sertão. Reporter Brazil. Available in: Accessed on: 4 May 2019.


v HADDAD, S. Why the Brazil of Olavo and Bolsonaro sees an enemy in Paulo Freire. Newspaper. Available in: Accessed on: 4 May 2019.

saw FREIRE, P. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. 18th ed. Rio de Janeiro: Peace and Land, 1988. for. 79.

viiIbid, for. 80.

viiiFREIRE, P. autonomy pedagogy: Necessary knowledge to educational practice. 36th ed. São Paulo: Paz e Terra, 2007. for. 22.

by Francisco Porfirio
sociology professor

Source: Brazil School -

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