Paolo Freire, a Brazilian radical educator talks about the oppression students face in the traditional method of learning, The Banking Concept of Education. According to him in this method of teaching “the contents, whether values or empirical dimensions of reality, tend, in the process of being narrated, to become lifeless and petrified. ” He accuses education to be suffering from “narration sickness” where students learn the content distancing it from reality in a very mechanical way. Therefore he proposes a Problem-Posing method of education where the students while learning from the teacher are themselves educating the teacher through constant communication. Regarding “dialogue as indispensable to the act of cognition which unveils reality”, the problem-posing method of education thrives on understanding and creativity resulting in critical reflection and then intervention by students who should then go on to transform the lives of people in the world.
As revolutionary as the problem-posing model may sound in this article, I have mixed feelings about this whole issue as conventional wisdom has it that the Banking Concept of Education enables more content to enter the minds of students making them more knowledgeable about the topic being taught and sometimes the subject matter itself does not allow ways for effective problem-posing. I can now vividly recall my experience in my Business Studies class during junior high school year and look at it through a different perspective. The pedagogy in that class was very similar to what Freire would describe as “The Banking Concept of Education” where we as students were meant to absorb as much as we could from what was being poured onto us by the teacher, just like sponges.
As per the syllabus from Edexcel U. K our course was required to “produce students who have a sound understanding of business and who have the ability to use knowledge, skills and understanding appropriately in the context of international markets and the United Kingdom. ”- Edexcel International. What I experienced and learnt from that class was totally different though. Our teacher, a “well-educated” man in his fifties, would come to class with pages of printed lecture notes and distribute them to all the students at the beginning of each class. He would then start narrating the notes in his own words and would act, according to Freire’s words, as a depositor. We, as students, were mere objects in his class trying to patiently receive, memorize, and when necessary repeat what was deposited in us. We were primarily not “called upon to know, but to memorize the contents narrated by the teacher”. The more we stored and reproduced “facts” the less we developed our ability to learn through critical reflection, the method of authentic learning. There was very little or no true communication in class in terms of facilitating questions from students about various topics in the course.
One such example was when one student in my class asked him “Why would a country increase or decrease its foreign currency exchange rates? ”, his reply was “You are not required to know that according to your business studies syllabus, so don’t bother. Although our teacher was true his complete lack of respect for the student’s keenness to acquire some relevant additional knowledge baffled me. He had already chosen the program content and made up his mind as to what was and what wasn’t “necessary”. We as students did not have any say in it and had to accept his way of teaching, otherwise we would be “misfits” in the education system. Feature (h) of the banking concept reads “the teacher chooses the program content, and the students (who were not consulted) adapt to it. This just sums up that saddening incident during our class. Freire also states that “any situation in which some individuals prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence. ” The fact that he did not enable us to learn through inquiry was an act of violence regardless of the means he used for it. He denied us of the basic right of dialog and communication.
This raises questions about our status as human beings, for the fact that communication with others and our own decision making is what distinguishes us from mere objects surviving on Earth. On a different note, although we were conscious of what was being taught to us, we were never encouraged to be conscious of consciousness. In other words we would not contemplate on the authenticity of what was entering our conscience. I learned that increasing interest rates would cause inflation to reduce but was never able to discuss why and how it occurs or whether it occurs at all. Thus I was forced to look at the world from what was being taught to me, my teacher’s and the textbook’s fragmented viewpoint of reality, which took away my ability to think for my own self. Problem posing in class was thought of as challenging the teacher’s knowledge and qualifications to teach the subject. A questioning or problem-posing student was considered rebellious or arrogant. Therefore in the name of the “preservation of culture and knowledge we have a system which achieves neither true knowledge nor true culture”.
We accepted this fact and moved on to be just automatons during the length of the course. We were taught everything with only one purpose in mind – score exemplary marks in the public examination set by Edexcel. All the course content, questions for “discussion” in class were focused on getting all the “knowledge” we needed to score an A in the final public exam. Business Studies as a subject of learning the functioning of enterprises in the “real world” was not what we did seem to study. We learned all the definitions, advantages and disadvantages of certain decisions and how to answer each type of question in black and white. No places for inquisitive learning, discussion, grey areas, nothing. The more passively we learned the better “fits” we became to the class and the smarter we were deemed to be as questioning would mean we hadn’t grasped the subject with success. We could never come up with authentic thoughts of our own as critical reflection was minimal. The subject matter though stimulating was never the topic of a debate or discussion thus its attachment to reality was distanced through our learning. According to Freire true “knowledge emerges only through invention and reinvention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful, inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.
This is what stimulates authentic reflection which enables us to understand “people in their relations with the world” We were forced to look at the subject removed from its real-life existence as if it were an extinct species and we were trying to recollect as many facts about it as possible. This according to me distorts the true purpose of education which is to be knowledgeable about something and be able to put it into practice, which would then enhance the lives of fellow human beings. Freire calls this praxis, the actions through which true liberation is achieved. Freire refers to true liberation as the transformation of the world through the actions of men and women who reject communiques and embody communication. In other words through interaction and discussion with people a solution which is of greater benefit to people at large is found which when implemented enhances the lives of the people. It acknowledges the world to be dynamic and needing constant transformation and not one which is static in nature. On this note had we had a class which would have facilitated problem posing, we would have attached the subject content to the real world thus enabling us a better understanding of the material.
In my opinion a great drawback of the banking concept of education is that once the exams or quizzes are over most of the course content is forgotten since everything was stored in your head with the sole purpose of spitting it out for the exams. Due to its detachment from reality the course content is insignificant in our lives. As the exams are over our “containers” are emptied and ready to be filled by new material needed for the next session of regurgitating. In hindsight however, I feel that our teacher was not really left with many other ways to educate us on the subject. Many people regard that an interactive class would make understanding of the subject content easier, however teaching a class of thirty five, had he facilitated questions from the students and enabled discussions it would have taken forever to complete the syllabus. Quite frankly, at the end of the day getting good grades at the exams was of utmost priority.
Although we are told standardized tests are not true reflections of a person’s intelligence or knowledge its results are considered significant and life-changing, how ironic. So this is a key reason for the survival of the banking concept of education. Speaking honestly, most of us wouldn’t mind getting an A and not knowing anything about the true reality of the material than fail the course and know how it relates to the world and the people. That is how deep the importance of letter grades is inculcated into our systems. Furthermore some of the course content required it to be taught in such a way. For example it would have been interesting to discuss the possibility to regard all currencies as equal in value, but in truth it is not. Such a debate would not only have wasted time but could have caused confusion and distorted the facts about exchange rates. In a system where syllabuses are required to be followed and deadlines need to be met, effective management of time is of utmost importance.
On another note this could have caused some students to get a false perception about the topic too, distorting reality, thus it was better for our teacher to dictate the facts and for us to follow. Therefore we can say that both methods of education have their sets of pros and cons. On the one hand the teaching of facts in black and white is beneficial as it avoids confusion and in most cases it actually is in plain black or white although we would like to think otherwise. This method enables more content to be absorbed by the students making their knowledge bases wider and enable them to score better grades. On the other hand problem-posing education tries to attach reality to the content being learned which enables us to recall the content better, even after exams are over. According to Freire it also enables us to solve the problems people face with the world which truly liberates us as humans since we acknowledge that humans and the world co-exist.
When looking back at the article written by Freire, he himself is contradicting his own teachings through the tone of his article. While he believes that learning through the problem-posing method is revolutionary due to its significant contributions towards mankind, his complete disregard for the obvious benefits of the banking concept of education convinces me that he is contradicting his own thoughts about education. For example the paragraph on page 252 “Once again, the two educational concepts and practices…banking education resists dialogue…banking education treats students as objects…banking concept inhibits creativity…historicity as their starting point. ” bombards the banking concept and praises the problem-posing method. By doing this Freire is trying, although unsuccessfully, to convince the reader to endorse his way of thinking…this makes us question his actions as he is forcefully trying to fill our conscience without any regard to us being “conscious of consciousness”. This article as a whole makes me understand one thing – it is possible for both teaching methods to co-exist just like the world and humans.
This could then result in the transformation of the lives of more students, rather than just the group who would like to learn interactively or the group who would like to learn narratively. It is common knowledge that different people like to learn differently as no two people would be the same, thus an optimum combination of both methods could be the most effective education system – one where facts are taught with relation to the world and whenever possible including discussion about ambiguous topics enabling students to have a fuller grasp of content and reality. Or it could be a totally different pedagogy altogether but one thing is for sure – we cannot count on the banking concept alone nor the problem posing concept by itself to be the ideal method of teaching and learning in the modern world…
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