The purpose of education has been debated throughout history. Criticisms endlessly emerge as society and the education system continues to develop. Many have voiced their positions on the subject and brought up different theories on education and what it should entail. Paolo Freire, a Brazilian educator and philosopher, identifies his view on the type of learning known as the “banking system” of education—style of education where the instructor lectures on a topic while the students quietly listen. According to his work, “The Banking Concept of Education,” conventional methods of education lack critical thinking and communication from the students. Such limitations leave negative effects by handicapping students’ potential as scholars and limiting the use for their knowledge. Freire is critical of the banking method concept because he believes conventional methods are structured similarly to that of an “oppressor and the oppressed”, which means the teacher holds all the power while the student are submitting and following orders verbatim. In contrast, Freire recommends a kind of education that engages the students by having them think critically and discuss problems and how to solve them. He also believes education would be more successful if the teacher becomes more of a mentor and abandons his power in order to relate with students and learn from them as well. Although conventional methods of teaching like memorization may seem like a functional method to acquire knowledge, Freire’s criticisms of conventional methods highlight problems and controversies posed with the banking system, while his recommendations of a problem-posing education will help solve the barrier of teachers to students and likewise, will make students more effective with the knowledge they learn.
Memorization may appear to be efficient in education, although, it does not guarantee any comprehension because it prevents critical thinking and analysis of what is being learned. Most would argue that it is needed to teach many subjects, especially mathematics. Although, by simply requiring students to memorize steps needed towards solving a problem, it eliminates their ability to comprehend the reasoning behind such steps. Freire recognizes that the banking education emphasizes memorization, facts, formulas, and discipline; in which all do not guarantee learning and engagement in studied knowledge: “This is the ‘banking’ concept of education, in which the scope of action allowed to the students extends only as far as receiving, filing, and storing the deposits” (Freire 63). For example, the number pi is asked to be memorized by students but how many of those students actually learn of its significance and or how it came to be? Memorization is useless when a student does not comprehend what they are learning: “The student records, memorizes, and repeats these phrases without perceiving what four times four really means, or realizing the true significance of ‘capital’ in the affirmation ‘the capital of Pára is Belém means for Pará and what Pará means for Brazil” (63). Although memorization may seem like a practical method to obtain knowledge, but through such a limitations, there are problems controversies posed with the banking system. Hand-feeding information to students also confines them and their ability to think on their own, establish creativity, and development as a person. By handicapping a students’ potential as scholars, makes the oppression dehumanizing. In numbing these students through constant narration, Freire critiques the lifeless result that in demonstrated through the lack of ability from the student: “But in the last analysis, it is the people themselves who are filed away through the lack of creativity, transformation, and knowledge in this misguided system” (RW 63). Such an idea proves the connection of a student to a “depository”; “Worse yet, it turns them into ‘containers,’ into ‘receptacles’ to be ‘filled’ by the teacher” (RW 63). Rather than using the students’ mind as a “recycling bin”—a place to deposit information where in return the student must use that information to recreate its meaning and apply it elsewhere—teachers promote (consciously or not) the idea that students just receive useless information which will be dispose and have no long-lasting purpose. Therefore, ridding of the banking method and establishing a new and profound method of education will create The banking system, although may seem practical, respects the teachers while degrading students and their capabilities. In traditional classrooms, teachers have all the established power. For students, therefore, “learning” means surrendering to a teacher’s absolute authority. Freire states how dangerous “banking” can be—“Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiqués and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat” (63). The banking method makes a clear division and the teacher acts—“teaches”, “knows”, “thinks”, “talks”, “disciplines”, and “chooses”—while the student are acted upon—“taught”, “know nothing”, “thought about”, listen”, “disciplined”, “comply” and “adapt” (64). Because of such limitations, such a method dehumanizes students and serves the interests of those who oppress them. In an oppressive nature, no real learning can be accomplished. The banking method loses the connection a teacher and student should have, on the other hand problem-posing education can redevelop that connection.
Freire’s recommended theory of education involves eliminating these boundaries and liberating education. By engaging the student and having them critically think about the meaning behind the knowledge they are learning and discussing, will help guide the student on how to use the information in the future. Freire’s type of learning embodies communication as the primary tool of evaluating information and utilizing it beyond the classroom setting. Through communication, the teacher must abandon his or her authority and become apart of the learning environment: “Through dialogue, the teacher-of-the-students and the students-of-the-teacher cease to exist and a new term emerges: teacher-student with student-teachers” (RW 65). Learning is an endless process and the teacher should teach the student just as the student enlightens teacher through discussions and analysis; “They become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow” (RW 66). The job of who teaches and holds authority is not defined because it is divided amongst all, students and teacher. The goal is to create an environment free of restrictions on what to learn and give freedom to learn about anything—to develop a passion for knowledge and learning. Like Freire, other modern writers have also came to the same conclusion when talking about the destruction and uselessness of the banking method. Richard P. Feynman in, “O Americano Outra Vez”, like Freire, displays his disapproval of the banking method; “this strange kind of self-propagating “education” which is utterly meaningless, utterly meaningless” (Feyman 72). Feynman discovers that the major flaw is that an education full of explicit facts rather than genuine understanding is a failure of an educational system. Feynman bases his views on the banking method on the countless experiences he had in teaching in Brazil. The quality of knowledge is more important than the quantity knowledge because information is pointless if it cannot be used or understood. Feyman’s first hand stories of students who memorize without true knowledge behind what they know reiterate the flaws that develop with the banking method. The problems surround the banking method should enhance proposals to remove the system as a whole and replacing it with a liberating education. Because banking education involves students just storing information rather than learning to utilize when needed, Freire’s proposal to the total rejection of a banking education seems harmful at first because of its deep roots on our current day education, but ultimately it would be beneficial and make for more useful students that are prepared to connect the knowledge to their lives. The banking method, has many flaws, one being that memorizing does not directly result to learning. While discussing how teachers deposit information, it is critical to establish a distinction between depositing and teaching. A teacher who cannot teach leads to students who are not learning. Just as Freire conditions, the lack of learning then leaves a disconnection between the knowledge and student, in which case the student loses the power and affect of the knowledge may have upon them, “—contents which are detached from reality, disconnected from the totality that endangered them and could give them significance” (63). Knowledge is meant to be more than just facts and formulas, but as a tool to establish an open mind and create the power of self-thought. Education is more than developing one’s knowledge but to create a well-defined human who will be able to use the information on a day-to-day basis. The information is meant to be an instrument that can be used to generate an successful future.
Although the banking method of teaching may seem like an efficient method to educate students, there are many vital problems and controversies posed with the system. Freire’s recommendations of a problem-posing education will help solve the barrier of teachers to students and likewise, will make students more effective with the knowledge they learn. I do believe education should be based on problem-posing because it makes the student more engaged in the classroom and provokes their desire to learn. In my educational experience, the teachers who focused on memorization and steps rather than inquiry and thought lost my overall interest. I have had math teachers that had the students teach each other and using games and other methods and avoiding just lectures. Education is meant to incorporate all the senses and be engaging to the student, not to just be about how much one can remember. To create better humans, is to create better people. Education is a fundamental part of human development and by limiting their mental awareness will not only affect their lives, but the world and the endless of possibilities that may have occurred.