An Analysis of “The Banking Concept of Education,” by Paolo Friere

Paolo Friere was a Brazilian educator and critical theorist whose ideas about society and class made fundamental and important contributions to the field of education. In his treatise “The Banking Concept of Education,” Friere argues about a universal mistake in the education system and he offers a solution that he believes brings to the classroom a dialogue about progressive social theory and education.   The mistake in the system is the “depositing” of information – like a bank deposit – by teachers into their student’s minds. However, Friere maintains that, problem-posing form of education presents a better choice that the concept of education banking system because the later employs static pedagogy tactic, hence, harming the power of knowledge. Problem-posing education creates a dialogue of authentic learning between a student and a teacher. This author argues that more problem-posing educational experiences would be personally very rewarding and provide vital learning opportunities. In my school years, I have practiced many educators who fit Freire’s negative explanation; however, I have also experienced some teachers whose methods of teaching have been different from those Freire complains.

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During the middle school years in Iran, I felt like a prisoner that my thoughts were controlled. Actually, my thoughts were confined within the compound of Ferdowsi School in Tehran. While at my second academic year in middle school, a teacher read some verses from the Muslim’s holy book (known as Quran) that Mohammad’s miracle has been a book. I was thinking, how a written book can be a miracle? If so, everybody can perform the same miracle. Unexpectedly my teacher inquired from me on what were my thoughts about the Quran. Specifically, the teacher persuaded me to read the book and where possibly agrees with its teachings. I was upset because teacher’s argument went against my thoughts and beliefs. At one point, I wondered why I was unable to ask my teacher questions. However, after awhile, I got accustomed to the classroom milieu just like my fellow classmates. Because of the environment at the classroom, I emerged as a statute where I was accepting anything without second thoughts. Now, I do realize that what I was undergoing in Tehran is what Paulo Friere referred to as the “banking Education.” In the banking concept, the teacher insists that students must agree with book content irrespective of their perception. Here, banking concept is authoritative in that, one has right of raising queries or relenting your personal opinion.

This system converts students into “automatons.” automatons is a situation where students are controlled like machines. Friere posits that, knowledge is acquired through creativity, experience and understanding. However, banking education eliminates creativity power, which is one among the fundamental aspects of knowledge acquisition in learning. Due to the milieu I was at in middle school, I was to live with pretention of accepting all teachings with giving my critical thoughts.

Once again, I experienced the banking concept when I was in my first year of high school. I was taking a basic philosophy class, which every day I would go to this class just to copy the pages of the book and take notes from what was written on the board. Every day it was the same thing repeatedly; walking into the classroom, and taking notes. At the end of the semester, I felt like the teacher and students did not communicate at all, and it is exactly the opposite of what Ferire connotes that, “only through communication can life hold meaning”. However, the teacher would give us study guides before exams; therefore, we had all the information we needed for the exam on the worksheet, memorize all of the information we needed for the exam, and then repeat. When I was registering for the class, I thought that class was about doing debates and arguing about the ideas of philosophers, but it was all about memorizing the dates and reading about people arguing about the philosophers. We did not go to class to learn about philosophy but to write notes and believe without any explanation. Looking back on that class, I cannot remember anything. I cannot remember what I had learned at all. Without the teachers effort to communicate with us I had no reason to bother myself to remember or understand what had been going on.

On the other hand, I have also had the honor of a class taught by a “problem-posing” professor when I was at Azad University in Iran. The problem-posing professor was teaching us an architectural design class. I took this class when during my first year or freshman. The professor strongly believed that he could learn as much from his students as they can from him. In the class, the professor would barely talk and lecture. Each of the students submitted their work weekly, and the other students in the classroom gave them comments on their work. The professor just occasionally offered suggestions as to how to make certain portions of our work more effective. In many cases, students’ work involved something that the professor didn’t know. By introducing and explaining the work to him, he learned many new things from the ideas of his students. It seems that the students were doing the teaching, and the teacher was being taught. Therefore, since the responses on our work came mostly from other students, it was usually the opinion of other students that was appreciated in the classroom.

In addition, the professor would only choose the types of design we had to work on, and he asked us only to try to experiment since we were not limited to any parameters, and had complete creative freedom. While there were suggested assignments, we did not have to follow them or complete them in the demonstrated manner if we chose not to. It is true that we didn’t have to refer to the syllabus, but the fact that we weren’t forced to follow it revalues Freire’s theory about the students’ lack of decision-making power. Through my personal experience at a class where I was dictated what to, and as Freire points out, “authoritative” teachers who control students like studio directors, brings in a confusion to the power of knowledge their own professionalism. As a result, the professional power that is against the freedom that students should enjoy while learning.

The teacher could not possibly have command over work she had never seen before, and neither could the students. Therefore, we were all located on the same level of authority from the beginning. I have certainly experienced a number of instructors who fit Freire’s undesirable model perfectly, but fortunately, I also had a pleasing experience that reassured me that it is possible to create a learning environment in which students and teachers are equals. While the concept of banking education is used today, there are other methods such as problem-posing techniques that exist for the benefit of students.


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