Paulo Freire was a Brazilian educator who wrote this revolutionary classic book during his first years of exile from Brazil and published it in 1968.

The book was translated into English in 1970.

It has been banned and blacklisted numerous times by different governments who find the book to be subversive and dangerous.

The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, basically means the education of the oppressed.

In this book, Paulo Freier’s thesis is that those that are oppressing you, in most cases, often when they teach you, they pretend that you know nothing.

He uses the analogy of the bank, they [teachers] think you [student] are an empty bank account and their job is to deposit money [teach] into your account.

Freire characterizes traditional education as based on a “banking conception,” where the so-called facts of the subject are “deposited” by a teacher into the minds [considered empty like vaults] of the students.

With this metaphor goes the idea that the depositor [teacher] is the active agent, and the receiver [student] the passive agent.

The depositor, the teacher, knows all [is rich], the student knows little or nothing [is poor].

The process is one-way and, in Freire’s view, morbid because it is static, the information is not questioned and the receivers do not actively participate in organising and rearranging it.

Such a process mirrors well the oppressive societies which have given birth to the style of education practiced in western countries.

It builds a rigid class distinction [the teacher-student barrier] with one group the “haves” and the other the “have-nots.”

Even more oppressive, it supports the idea that the most appropriate form of behavior for a have-not is silence, passivity, and a feeling of inferiority.

Those who have some ambition are channelled into becoming “haves,” depositors who can then dictate to and control the lives of other “have-nots.”

He says if you really want to teach someone properly, you must take your students from what they know and elevate them higher. Never assume that your students are stupid.

Freire goes on to explain that true education, where the “teacher” and “student” are both exchanging perspectives and experiences and learning from one another authentically, is the only way for revolutionary change to come about and for more people to join the struggle for liberation.

Paulo Freire views society as divided and hierarchical [i.e. based on power relations, the oppressor and the oppressed], and education as a tool used by dominant groups to legitimise the grossly unfair and morally wrong arrangement.

Freire’s thesis is that educators should take on the role of “facilitator” or “co-ordinator” or discussion as students discover the world themselves, instead of treating students like boxes to fill with prepackaged facts.

As soon as the teacher thinks that he or she knows more of everything, and has little to learn from the student, the process of education becomes nothing more than ban- king with ideas. It reverts to a class-structured society with a dominant and a dominated, an oppressor and an oppressed. It is no longer education but subjugation. It is the enemy of freedom.

So how do we learn from one another?

Freire writes that it is as simple, and as complicated as honest dialogue and companionship.

By enabling the oppressed to look at the oppressor’s ideologies critically, he believes, education can assist them in ridding themselves of their ‘false consciousness



This is a classic book. If you are in education or are doing development work, this book is a must read.

It is a radical book, with revolutionary thoughts that encourages education as a tool to be creative, not education as a tool to teach the continued meeting of the status-quo i.e oppression.

This is one of those books you have to chew and digest rather than swallow without chewing.

Freire makes a salad of education, dialogue, poverty, consciousness, and liberation.

If you are a teacher, you should not be allowed to stand in front of students without reading this book first.

Such an important book for educators

Favourite Quotes

  • “Leaders who do not act dialogically, but insist on imposing their decisions, do not organise the people, they manipulate them. They do not liberate, nor are they liberated: they oppress.”
  • “Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”
  • “A real humanist can be identified more by his trust in the people, which engages him in their struggle, than by a thousand actions in their favor without that trust.” 
  • “True generosity consists precisely in fighting to destroy the causes which nourish false charity… This lesson and this apprenticeship must come, however, from the oppressed themselves and from those who are truly in solidarity with them. As individuals or as peoples, by fighting for the restoration of their humanity they will be attempting the restoration of true generosity. Who are better prepared than the oppressed to understand the terrible significance of an oppressive society? Who suffer the effects of oppression more than the oppressed? Who can better understand the necessity of liberation?”
  • “It is only the oppressed who, by freeing themselves, can free their oppressors. The latter, as an oppressive class, can free neither others nor themselves. It is therefore essential that the oppressed wage the struggle to resolves the contradiction in which they are caught; and the contradiction will be resolved by the appearance of the new man: neither oppressor nor oppressed, but man in the process of liberation.”
  • “Dialogue cannot exist, however, in the absence of a profound love for the world and for people… Because love is an act our courage, not fear, love is commitment to others. “
  • “Liberating education consists in acts of cognition, not transferrals of information.”
  • “… Without a sense of identity, there can be no real struggle…”
  • “The oppressors do not favor promoting the community as a whole, but rather selected leaders.”
  • “To alienate men from their own decision-making is to change them into objects.”

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