Paulo Freire Biography

(Educator and Philosopher)

Birthday: September 19, 1921 (Virgo)

Born In: Recife, Brazil

Paulo Reglus Neves Freire was a professor and philosopher known for his work with adult illiterates and for promoting critical pedagogy, a theory and philosophy of education. He believed that each student has a way of thinking critically and is not just a passive recipient of knowledge or education from a teacher. He studied the relationship between teaching and learning and endorsed that the teacher should help students in developing freedom of thought that would enable them to use their knowledge to take constructive action. Freire grew up in poverty and hunger during the Great Depression of the 1930s and this explained his concerns about helping the poor. Poverty and related difficulties made him lag behind in social development and his ability to learn was severely diminished due to constant hunger and malnourishment. Eventually when his misfortunes ended and he got the opportunity to seek out a better life for himself, he decided that he wanted to contribute towards helping the poor. He became an educator and started working with the illiterate poor. He developed his own educational theories and taught hundreds of poor workers to read and write in just 45 days. He is the author of the book ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ which is one of the foundational texts of the critical pedagogy movement.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Paulo Reglus Neves Freire

Died At Age: 75


Spouse/Ex-: Elza Freire

Born Country: Brazil

Quotes By Paulo Freire Educators

Died on: May 2, 1997

place of death: São Paulo, State of São Paulo, Brazil

More Facts

education: Federal University of Pernambuco

  • 1

    What is Paulo Freire best known for?

    Paulo Freire is best known for his critical pedagogy and his influential work in the field of education, particularly his book "Pedagogy of the Oppressed."
  • 2

    What is the main idea behind Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed?

    The main idea behind "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" is that education should be a tool for liberation and empowerment, rather than a tool for oppression. Freire emphasizes the importance of critical thinking and dialogue in the educational process.
  • 3

    How did Paulo Freire's ideas impact education?

    Paulo Freire's ideas had a significant impact on education by promoting a more student-centered and participatory approach to teaching and learning. His work has influenced educators around the world to adopt more democratic and empowering practices in the classroom.
  • 4

    How did Paulo Freire view the relationship between education and social change?

    Paulo Freire believed that education has the power to bring about social change by empowering individuals to critically analyze and challenge oppressive systems. He saw education as a key tool for promoting liberation and transforming society.
Childhood & Early Life
He was born into a middle-class family in Recife, Brazil in 1921. He was still a young boy when the Great Depression of 1929 engulfed the world economy and he was pushed into a life of poverty and hunger.
His family moved to a less expensive city of Jaboatao dos Guararapes in 1931 and his father died in 1933 leaving his wife and children to fend for themselves. The young boy was exposed to a harsh life marked by poverty and constant hunger. These factors greatly diminished his learning ability and he ended up four grades behind.
His childhood experiences instilled in him empathy for the poor and less fortunate, and he was deeply motivated to do something to make their lives better.
Gradually his family’s fortunes improved and he was able to pursue higher education at reputable institutions. He joined Law School at the University of Recife in 1943. He also studied philosophy, and the psychology of language.
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He started working as a teacher of Portuguese upon his graduation. In spite of being admitted to the legal bar he never practiced law.
He was appointed the Director of the Department of Education and Culture of the Social Service in the state of Pernambuco in 1946. While here he worked with illiterate poor and developed his own non-orthodox form of liberation theology.
He became the director of the Department of Cultural Extension of Recife University in 1961 and became involved in an educational project aimed at dealing with mass illiteracy in 1962. Through the adoption of his theories 300 sugarcane workers were taught to read and write within 45 days.
This initial success of his theories prompted the Brazilian government to extend the movement to several states. During 1963-64 the government drew up a plan to establish 2000 cultural circles to reach 2, 000,000 illiterates.
The supposed plan could not be realized as a military coup in 1964 brought the existing regime to an end and Freire was imprisoned for 70 days following the coup.
He first went to Bolivia on a brief exile and then moved to Chile where he started working for the Christian Democratic Agrarian Reform Movement and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
He published his first book ‘Education as the Practice of Freedom’ in 1967 and followed it with his seminal work, ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ in 1968, originally in Portuguese. This book became very popular and was soon translated into other languages like English and Spanish.
He was offered a visiting professorship at Harvard University in 1969.
He was appointed the special educational advisor to the Department of Education, World Congress of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland in 1970. During this time he advised former Portuguese colonies in Africa on educational reforms.
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In 1980, he was made the supervisor of adult literacy project for the Workers’ Party in Sao Paulo, Brazil, a post he held till 1986.
Major Works
His book ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ is considered one of the foundational texts of critical pedagogy. He advocates building a newer model of relationship between the teacher, student and society. He proposed that the learner in a teacher-student relationship should be treated as a co-creator of knowledge and not as a passive recipient of knowledge.
Awards & Achievements
The King Balduin prize for International Development was bestowed upon him in Belgium in 1980.
He was awarded the UNESCO 1986 prize for Education for Peace.
He was presented with the Andres Bello Inter-American Prize for Education by the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1992.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Elza Maia Costa de Oliveira, a teacher, in 1944. The couple had five children and was happily married till Elza’s death in 1986.
He was very broken after the death of his wife and by chance reconnected with a former pupil of his, Maria Araujo. The two eventually fell in love and married.
He died of heart failure in 1997 at the age of 75.
Facts About Paulo Freire
Paulo Freire was known for his unique teaching method called "critical pedagogy," which focused on empowering students to think critically about the world around them and take action to create positive change.
Freire was a strong advocate for education as a tool for liberation and social justice, believing that all individuals have the right to a meaningful and transformative education.
Despite facing political persecution and exile during his lifetime, Freire remained committed to his principles of education for liberation and continued to inspire educators and activists around the world.
Freire's work has had a lasting impact on the field of education, influencing countless educators and policymakers to rethink traditional teaching methods and prioritize critical thinking and social awareness in the classroom.
In addition to his work in education, Freire was also a prolific writer and thinker, publishing numerous books and essays on topics ranging from literacy and democracy to human rights and social change.
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