Paulo Freire joined law school at the Federal University of Pernambuco in 1943. He also studied philosophy and the psychology of language.
Paulo attained Honorary Doctorate from The Open University in 1973. Nineteen years later Freire received Honorary Degree from Claremont Graduate University. In 1996 he also obtained Honorary Doctorate from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Paulo Freire started working as a teacher of Portuguese upon his graduation.
He was appointed the director of the Department of Education and Culture of the Social Service in the state of Pernambuco in 1946.
He started to work as a director of the Department of Cultural Extension of Federal University of Pernambuco in 1961 and became involved in an educational project aimed at dealing with mass illiteracy in 1962. Through the adoption of his theories 300 sugarcane workers were taught to read and write within 45 days.
This initial success of his theories prompted the Brazilian government to extend the movement to several states. During the period from 1963 to 1964 the government drew up a plan to establish 2000 cultural circles to reach 2.000.000 illiterates. The supposed plan could not be realized as a military coup in 1964 brought the existing regime to an end and Freire was imprisoned for 70 days following the coup.
He first went to Bolivia on a brief exile and then moved to Chile where he started working for the Christian Democratic Agrarian Reform Movement and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
The philosopher published his first book "Education as the Practice of Freedom" in 1967 and followed it with his seminal work, "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" in 1968, originally in Portuguese. This book became very popular and was soon translated into other languages like English and Spanish.
In 1969 he started to work as a visiting professor at Harvard University.
Paulo was appointed a special educational advisor to the Department of Education, World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland in 1970. During this time he advised former Portuguese colonies in Africa on educational reforms.
In 1980 Freire was appointed the supervisor of adult literacy project for the Workers’ Party in Sao Paulo, Brazil, a post he held till 1986. Later, in 1989, Paulo became Sao Paulo’s education secretary.
Freire advocated building a newer model of relationship between a teacher, student and society. The philosopher proposed that the learner in a teacher-student relationship should be treated as a co-creator of knowledge and not as a passive recipient of knowledge. He attacked what he called the "banking" concept of education, in which the student was viewed as an empty account to be filled by the teacher. The learner must develop a critical consciousness in order to recognize that culture of silence is created to oppress.
Paulo Freire married Elza Maia Costa de Oliveira, a teacher, in 1944. The couple had five children and was happily married till Elza’s death in 1986.
Paulo was very broken after the death of his wife and by chance reconnected with his former pupil Maria Araujo. The two eventually fell in love and married.