The Banking Concept of Education

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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 method 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...
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