Paulo Freire

Paulo Freire’s work has influenced people working in education, community development, community health and many other fields. Freire developed an approach to education that links the identification of issues to positive action for change and development. While Freire’s original work was in adult literacy, his approach leads us to think about how we can ‘read’ the society around us.

For Freire, the educational process is never neutral. People can be passive recipients of knowledge — whatever the content — or they can engage in a ‘problem-posing’ approach in which they become active participants. As part of this approach, it is essential that people link knowledge to action so that they actively work to change their societies at a local level and beyond.

Many of Freire’s writings are available in English. The most well known of these, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1972) has been very influential but new readers of Freire may find The Politics of Education (1985) a more accessible text.

A typical feature of Freire-type education is that people bring their own knowledge and experience into the process. Training is typically undertaken in small groups with lively interaction and can embrace not only the written word but art, music and other forms of expression.

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