Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Freire has been defined by the famous Swiss educator Pierre Furter as “a myth in his own lifetime.” He has become an outstanding figure in the academic world for his unique combination of theory with practical experience in the field of adult education. Freire became famous in the early sixties for his powerful method for literacy training, but his writings went beyond mere techniques for literacy training and became a landmark for critical pedagogy all over the world.
His personal involvement with important literacy campaigns and innovative experiences in adult education in the Third World (Brazil prior to 1964, Chile, Nicaragua, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome, Cabo Verde, Principe, and Tanzania) have brought unique insights into very complex matters. His writing has impacted women's and worker's education in Europe, even as a source of contradiction, and his new analyses on the role of liberating pedagogy in the industrially advanced societies (see his books with Ira Shor and Donaldo Macedo) are currently important subject for debate and pedagogical thinking. It will not be an exaggeration to say that as John Dewey was the dominant figure in pedagogy in the first half of the century, Paulo Freire has been the catalyst, if not the prime “animateur,” for pedagogical innovation and change in the second half of this century.
Freire has received several doctorates, awards, and prizes for his work, including the UNESCO Peace Prize in 1987. In 1985 he and his late wife, Elza, received the Prize for Christian Educators in the United States. The importance of his work is expressed in the fact that his most important books (Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Education for Critical Consciousness, Pedagogy in Process: Letters from Guinea Bissau) have been translated into many languages including German, Italian, Spanish, Korean, Japanese, and French. Some of them, notably Pedagogy of the Oppressed, have more than 35 reprints in Spanish, 19 in Portuguese, and 12 in English.