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Alternatives: Paolo Freire

Paulo Freire revolutionized the pedagogical world with an in-depth focus on the role of society on the individual. In his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970),  he described how oppression came to be normalized due to the "Othering" of the oppressed in the environment of the oppressor. The application of his thinking to language-in-education policies, in particular, shows how students who do not fit into the dominant culture often give up their own cultural identity and ingrain the governing culture in their minds as the more powerful one. This act of emptying the minds of students and filling them with the privileged culture is one that Freire resisted, as it tends to dehumanize the individual as an incomplete object. (See Language Discrimination, Linguistic Ideology.)

In his final work, Pedagogy of Freedom (1998), Freire called for an "intervention in the world" and an "aspiration for radical changes [to] society [and] to education, to the reactionary position whose aim is to immobilize history and maintain an unjust socio-economic and cultural order" (6). Much of his pedagogical aim involved the incorporation of reflective participation and certain types of dialogue, especially with regard to the oppressed, as a way of challenging the culture of silence. The voices of those not in power are often suffocated by their leaders under the guise of globalization. “Any situation in which some men prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence; [...] to alienate humans from their own decision making is to change them into objects” (Freire, 1968, p. 73).

Educators can use these ideas to create a classroom that encourages an equal relationship between the teacher and the students. Through dialogue, both parties become responsible for the learning process and all members share an authority role. 

Another way of approaching these ideas is to envision pedagogical practices and an education model based on posing problems for investigation and exploration. This type of education involves "a constant unveiling of reality, the emergence of consciousness, and critical intervention in reality" (Freire, 1968, p. 68). Policy makers can also endorse this practice of freedom by creating flexible language-in-policies  that allow for independence for the non-dominant culture.



Freire, Paulo. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Herder and Herder.

Freire, Paulo. (1998). Pedagogy of Freedom: Ethics, Democracy, and Civic Courage. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.

Hederman, Mark Patrick (1982) Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed. The Crane Bag, 6(2), 58-63.

Kahn, Richard (2002). Paulo Freire and Eco-Justice: Updating Pedagogy of the Oppressed for the Age of Ecological Calamity. Freire online journal, 1(1).

Stern, Sol (2009) Pedagogy of the Oppressor. Another reason why U.S. ed schools are so awful: the ongoing influence of Brazilian Marxist
Paulo Freire. City Journal, 19(2).

Teoh, Jase (2012) Drama as a Form of Critical Pedagogy: Empowerment of Justice. The Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed International Journal, 1(1), 4-26.

Tran, Long; Burke, Katherine; & Weinberg, Mark (2012). Boal, Freire, and Us. The Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed International
Journal, 1(1), 70-83.


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This information was originally published on the website of the International Network for Language Education Policy Studies ( as

Zuidema, M. (2013). Alternatives: Paolo Freire. In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved from: (access date). 

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