Paulo Freire

(1921 - 1997)



Paulo Freire (1921 - 1997), the Brazilian educationalist, has left a significant mark on thinking about progressive practice. His Pedagogy of the Oppressed is currently one of the most quoted educational texts (especially in Latin America, Africa and Asia). Freire was able to draw upon, and weave together, a number of strands of thinking about educational practice and liberation.


“Hope is an ontological need… I am hopeful, not out of mere stubbornness, but out of an existential, concrete imperative… my hope is necessary, but it is not enough. Alone, it does not win. But without it, my struggle will be weak and wobbly. We need critical hope the way a fish needs unpolluted water” Freire, Pedagogy of Hope.




Paulo Freire was an educator in the 1960's who developed an adult literacy program in desperately poor northeastern Brazil, which eventually formed the basis for his philosophy of education. Paulo Freire refers to the "generative word," which is taken from and applied to the student's own personal reality; as well as the importance of the student's active participation in his or her own process. In essence, this philosophy teaches that "... those who, in learning to read and write, come to a new awareness of selfhood and begin to look critically at the social situation in which they find themselves, often take the initiative in acting to transform the society that has denied them this opportunity of participation." (Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York, NY: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1989, Forward by Richard Shaull, p.9.


The methodology we use is unique in Cuernavaca and, for that matter, in many parts of Latin America and Spain. It is an attempt to steer clear of traditional, mechanistic methods which, often, are also ideologically oppressive. It has not been easy to change what we, as teachers, have been doing for years and what we, as students, experienced in our own educational process. Paulo Freire refers to the "generative word" to be taken from and applied to the student's own personal reality and about the active participation of the student in his or her own process. The teacher/facilitator's job is to be open, respectful, and above all, humble, maintaining a horizontal (rather than vertical, superior-inferior) relationship with the student. As we are working with people from other cultures, we cannot use "generative words" as such. However, the concept is taken into account while making specific points of grammar and creating participatory exercises which explain and demonstrate the reality of the Spanish language as it is manifested in the culture of Mexico. All of this happens through an integration of classroom instruction and direct experiences with the culture. For us, to teach language is to teach culture; they are inseparable and one cannot teach or learn one without the other. The "culture" we speak about is not some idyllic concept; it is the present, concrete reality of a people whose heritage, contradictions, and problems are integral to understanding their language.


At CILAC Paulo Freire's methodology is applied to the teaching of Spanish as a second language and students are expected to contribute their insights and ask the necessary questions for critical analysis.


For more information about Paulo Freire's methodology, please contact us: