Oct 10 2011

“The Banking Concept of Education”- Paulo Freire, “hits the nail on the head”

by at 9:17 pm under Uncategorized

Students have mastered the science of memory.  The ability to recall facts from class is the way to success in most forms of schooling.  Memorization of vocabulary cards, overhead notes, outlines, and harvested concepts will lead to students’ expected achievement of ‘A’ marks. Many educators and students do not know that this system of education is not just ineffective, but it is harmful.

Paulo Freire talks about the “banking concept of education”, explaining that students in this system are  “ ‘receptacles’ ” that are to be “ ‘filled’ ” with the “content of the teachers narration”.(Freire, 1) These “receptacles” are expected to regurgitate information given in class, on tests, quizzes, and anything that requires an answer that is “word for word” what the teacher says.   In a banking classroom, the teacher is the authority and the students are oppressed. Freire writes, “The more students work at storing deposits entrusted to them, the less they develop the critical consciousness which would result from their intervention in the world as transformers of that world.” (Freire, 2).

To escape this system of students striving to lose critical consciousness, Freire argues, and I agree that “mutual humanization” must occur.   Students and teachers must become partners in critical thinking.  Freire argues that banking educational goals must be forgotten, and teachers should, “replace it with the posing of the problems of human beings in their relations with the world”.   (Freire, 5)

Problem posing education focuses on concepts that have “praxis”, practical application of theories or concepts learned through education.  Students must be able to see that what they learn in the classroom can help them change the world.  This realization enables them to engage in “praxis”.  When students are given problems as opposed to only information, the process becomes less alienated and more practical.

When there is no right answer, students are pitted with the task of critical thinking, and praxis.  The bottom line is that education should provide tools and practice in critical thinking for students, not absolute answers. I completely agree with Freire’s argument in this chapter.  In fact, I feel that it is one of the most meaningful pieces of educational literature that I have ever encountered.


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9 Responses to ““The Banking Concept of Education”- Paulo Freire, “hits the nail on the head””

  1. Ronak Parikh on 12 Oct 2011 at 8:36 am

    In my opinion, the Freire article really ties together many of the themes we discussed over the course of the semester. He talks in detail about the mechanical nature of what he coins the “banking concept of education.” As Charles wrote about this in his post, much of this “banking education” is predicated on the student-teacher relationship. Simply put, teachers are the authority and students are the oppressed. Freire states in his paper, “the teacher teaches and the students are taught, the teacher knows everything and the students know nothing.” This first point ties into the hooks piece about engaged pedagogy. In the banking-version of education there really is only a one-way street. Students are not gauged for their opinions or for their reflections on the subject matter at hand. hooks suggests taking part in a dialogue and having students test their teachers. In this way, a symbiotic relationship is established. The teacher may introduce an idea or concept but students are asked to immerse themselves in the material, ask questions, and seek out answers for themselves.

    A second point that relates to both the hooks and Shorris readings is that the teaching methods in the banking model are very mechanical. Students are required to memorize facts and figures in order to succeed in their courses. These practices are evident at all levels of education – from the elementary school classrooms to Advanced Placement courses in high school to even several courses at prestigious universities. This contradicts the hooks and Shorris articles that we read at the beginning of the course. Both hooks and Shorris feel that in addition to learning straight facts, there needs to be a component of reflection and critical thinking. Students must not only know what is going on, but they should understand what is going on. Thus, many of the central themes of the banking model do not apply. Students are encouraged to engage in a dialogue with their professors. They are encouraged to question the professor, ask questions, and at times argue points with the professor. Extending beyond rote memorization allows students to really internalize the material and allows for application.

    A third point relates to the Young, Black, and Restless reading that we had. Freire describes “education as the practice of freedom.” The process of learning is liberating and thus should be done in an environment where the practice of domination is not evident. Freire also states, “education denies that man is abstract, isolated, independent, and unattached to the world.” Essentially, all of us live on this earth together. As Plato says, we are all social animals. We converse and discuss ideas and politics – this is what makes us human. And this is precisely the way that we can enact change in this world. Freire suggests that ideally, a liberating educational method should be used in the classroom.

    Overall I thought that this article did a good job in drawing the dichotomy between the clearly defined “banking concept of education” and “engaged pedagogy.” It defined the consequences of this “banking concept of education,” which as many of the authors we read would argue, may not be a form of “education” at all.

  2. Elizabeth McMillen on 12 Oct 2011 at 5:51 pm

    Today’s class discussion on the Freire’s piece left me feeling unsatisfied. There is so much blame put on teachers and society in Freire’s piece that I found it difficult to get past his highly aggressive arguments to his main points. Obviously, critical thinking is better than rote memorization.
    My group talked in length about how certain things do need to be memorized at a younger age to move on to more complex and advanced topics that largely employ critical thinking. A lot of blame is being put on the teachers in Freire’s piece. The argument for a complete revolution is, as Jessica said today in class, unrealistic. People invest in education because there is an expectation for a future that stems from that education. This is why there is competition to get into colleges, college rankings, AP tests in high school, etc. We worked hard to get into Georgetown because we thought that it was the best of the best and it would increase our options for the future. Granted, we have all had success with critical thinking and branching out of the banking system.
    I worry about lower income students who do not have access to more creative thinking and supportive teachers or parents. There is no one answer for what changes have to be made to improve the situation at hand. Human beings are just that, and not every teacher is going to make the effort every day to make her classroom an intellectually stimulating environment where she employs critical thinking and strong relationships with her students.
    As was also mentioned in class, there has been a bit of disillusionment with the American system of things. For our parents and grandparents, if they worked very hard to achieve their goals, they could do whatever they wanted. Today, we are constantly badgered by the importance of outside factors that will make or break your future. As Hilary mentioned, we are also not quite sure if graduating from a prestigious university like Georgetown will make us any more likely to have successful futures.

  3. Luke Byrnes on 12 Oct 2011 at 7:52 pm

    As Ronak mentioned in his post and in class, Freire’s book touches on many topics that we have already discussed in class. One of the lines that stood out to me was, “the educated individual is the adapted person, because he is better ‘fit’ for the world.” This reminded me of Peters article because he wanted educated people to be able to critical think and put all of their knowledge to use. Freire talks about the need for a reform in our education system so that people can think more critically and not just be receptacles of information.

    The idea of the banking concept of education reminded me of Another Brick in the Wall by Pink Floyd. Not only are students told what to do in school, but they are oppressed from being able to think critically and interpret information themselves. Instead of having a classroom based on engaged pedagogy, it is as Charlie described, the teacher gives a narrative that the students must memorize. Freire says that teachers are pushing the dominant culture onto their students even if they don’t realize it. As a result, the students are all coming out the same, just like bricks from a factory.

    As Elizabeth mentions, the lower class seems to be the most oppressed in our current system as Anyon also talked about. In Anyon’s article, he talks about the differences in the way in which material is taught at schools from areas with different socioeconomic demographics. He found that in the poorer areas teachers seem to use a more banking approach of telling the children a step-by-step system that they must memorize.

    As I was reflecting on this in class, I was wondering if our overall system requires teachers to teach in certain way. The teachers in inner city schools are under so much pressure to meet certain standards on the standardized tests, that they must teach the students just enough for them to pass. This sad reality at least enables students to be literate by the time they graduate (or at least that is the hope). If we were to get rid of standardize tests, is there another way to judge the performance of students? Freire encourages teachers to engage students so they are able to apply their learning to the world, but can you quantify that?

    I believe the questions that I am posing go back to one of the main topics of the class, what is the purpose of education? I am not sure if some of the systems that we have read about can have a practical application, or at least in an elementary school, where students need to have a basic set of knowledge. When students get older, it seems a little more feasible to start engaging students in “real life” applications. As my group talked about in class, there needs to be a balance of the banking system and the problem-posing education in order to adequately learn subjects.

  4. Sarah McKeown on 12 Oct 2011 at 9:26 pm

    While I agree with Freire to the extent that being purely a “receptacle” of information without critical thinking or praxis is detrimental to education as a way of freedom, I have a difficult time in taking his ideology seriously due to the fact that he goes on passionately about the merits of the problem posing method but does not advise on how this method works when teaching subjects that are based in facts, such as science. He also juxtaposes the problem posing method with the banking method of educating as if they were two wholly separate concepts of teaching, rather than two separately incomplete methods that only succeed when used together.

    This article reminded me specifically about my Advanced Placement US Government class during my senior year of high school. While a good deal of the course material was factual and needed to be memorized in order to do well on the in-class tests, my teacher was very much open to class discussion. Freire states that
    “The students are not called upon to know, but to memorize the contents narrated by the teacher. Nor do the students practice any act of cognition, since the object towards which that act should be directed is the property of the teacher rather than a medium evoking the critical reflection of both teacher and students. Hence in the name of the “preservation of and knowledge” we have a system which achieves neither true knowledge nor true culture.”

    However, in my class, which was highly focused on memorizing facts, my teacher made it a point to allow his students to apply what they were learning to theories or ideas that they had, and oftentimes, our lectures would become discussions which allowed us students to think critically about the course material and apply it to real-life situations. In this classroom in which the banking method was used to teach us the facts that we needed to know, we were also given liberty to exercise our minds and work with the knowledge we were given in order to internalize it.

    My other concern with Freire’s ideology is that he refuses to take into account that in order to think critically about something and apply that thinking to real life, one first has to know something about what it is they are thinking about. I can see how the problem posing method may work particularly well in a humanities course, where much of the course material is subjective and can be interpreted many ways, but in a subject that relies on the facts, such as chemistry, that method alone will get students no where, except maybe into trouble. I wouldn’t want a teacher to only ask me what I think would happen if I mix two chemicals together – I want that teacher to tell me exactly what will happen and why so I know not to do something that could harmful. Then afterwards, if that teacher asks me to think critically about how that knowledge can be used in practical applications, I will be better prepared to apply my knowledge beyond a test or a classroom.

    I can completely see how combining these two methods could create a richer learning experience. However, I don’t think the problem posing method alone can replace the necessity of knowing the facts when the facts are in essence what give people the basic information they need to think critically about how this knowledge can be applied in real-world situations.

  5. Kelly McAllester on 12 Oct 2011 at 9:52 pm

    I think that all of the points mentioned above regarding the application and feasibility of the problem posing education described by Freire are important. I especially agree with the connection Luke made to the Anyon article and to how the emphasis on standardized testing might force teachers to teach in using the banking model and not the problem posing model. It made me wonder about the particulars of applying the problem posing education model to schools. Is this model compatable with standardized testing? My gut reaction is no. Just as Luke says, if you are asking students to learn first by engaging in praxis and learn facts based on the questions raised by their collective inquiry, how do you measure their achievement on a multiple-choice test? I think you have to be able to measure, somehow, student achievement in order to measure progress and identify areas of weakness.

    But I disagree with the idea that in elementary school the banking system is necessary in order to gain a certain set of knowledge. Looking back at my own experience in elementary school, I remember when I was in third and fourth grade we had a Gifted and Talented program in which twice a week we would work on self-directed projects such as planning a city or developing an invention. I remember these projects much more clearly than anything else I did in elementary school, and information I learned from them. For example my first idea for an invention was to make a hot pack, like an ice pack, to keep your lunch hot for you while you were in school. But I learned from the nurse that keeping food warm for hours while you wait for lunch period might cause bacteria to grow on food and make it unsafe to eat. I think this is an excellent examples of how Freire’s problem posing model could be applied to early education. I developed an idea, investigated that idea, and learned factual information as a result.

    Of course, this example is of a very small program within a larger public school system. But for a student struggling to connect what they learn at school with their own life, particularly students who are from a low socioeconomic background, even a program which meets once or twice a week could make a huge difference in how they approach learning and the information they are given through the banking structure. Perhaps the difference would even be noticeable on traditional standardized tests and teachers would have an incentive to break out of the banking concept and focus on providing students with opportunity to discover knowledge for themselves.

  6. Ariana Klener on 12 Oct 2011 at 10:42 pm

    Despite the greater awareness that critical thinking may improve a students’ understanding of the course material, the incentive structure in school institutions still encourages the banking concept of education over what Freire calls “problem posing education.” I agree with Luke that standardized tests are largely to blame, because they misalign teacher interests. Oftentimes teacher compensation is based on student test score performance instead of evaluating the depth of student knowledge. Therefore, teachers have an incentive to teach “by the book,” relaying “facts” and “truths” instead of allowing students to discover their own interpretation of the material. Teachers are limited in how far the can delve into the material because they have a wide range of information to cover for standardized tests. This is detrimental to students because it limits their creativity and their ability to think critically about issues. As we read in the bell hooks article, this critical thinking component is an essential way of learning.
    Based on his article, I think that Anyon would agree with Freire and argue that the banking concept of education is most prevalent in low socioeconomic areas. Teachers in low-income areas tend to use more directives and commands to students and focus on memorization rather than questioning “why” things are. However, while this may be true in some areas, I think that the Freire article over exaggerates the prevalence of the banking concept of education. While I agree that a classroom based on memorization is detrimental to students, I think that methods in education have come a long way since when this article was written. Today, there is a greater awareness of the importance of critical thinking and comprehension and although this focus may be greater in some schools, overall there is a movement away from rote memorization. For example, in class Colleen mentioned how her DC Reads program instructs tutors to challenge their tutee’s comprehension rather than just reading to them.
    Additionally, to some extent I see the value of the banking concept of education. Across the blog and during class, there was some debate over if and when the banking concept of education could be valuable in a classroom. I think that the banking concept of education can be constructive at any stage of a student’s education if carried out in moderation. I would definitely agree that memorization is not the best way to deeply understand certain information, but the fact is that memorization and information recall are valued skills in “the real world.” Across any profession, there is an expectation that individuals will have the ability to “regurgitate” information. Therefore, I think that to some degree the banking concept of education helps to socialize students.

  7. Samantha Meyer on 12 Oct 2011 at 11:09 pm

    Elizabeth brought up a wonderful point regarding the blame placed on teachers and society in the excerpt from Freire’s book. Although Freire places a lot of blame on the teachers, he does assert that a certain amount of obliviousness factors into many teachers’ complicity in the banking method and consequently, the perpetuation of oppression: “Those who use the banking approach, knowingly or unknowingly (for there are innumerable well intentioned bank-clerk teachers who do not realize that they are serving only to dehumanize), fail to perceive that the deposit themselves contain contradictions about reality…” (Freire). Freire’s explanation asserts the notion that many who perpetuate the dominant culture of knowledge, and force oppression onto their students, may not even realize a dominant culture or a culture of oppression exists. As many commentators have stated, the actual overarching introduction of the problem posing method into the entirety of the American school system would require an overwhelmingly unprecedented amount of dedication from the teachers regarding curriculum overhaul, lesson planning, attention the individual needs of every student, however it would also require the leaders of the dominant society to recognize the value of the problem posing method, then introduce it to the teachers. The introduction would not only have to present the problem posing method, but have to lead teachers to a full recognition of dominant culture, subordinate culture, and possibly provide an introduction to a self awareness about their place in the oppression system. After the introduction, the educators would then have to explore their critical thinking skills, creating a self aware view of their evolving role in educating students. A transition from a clerk in the banking approach to mutual educator/learner in the problem posing system would not only revolutionize the directly oppressed students, but the institutionally oppressed educators, completely altering the purpose and role of teacher in society.
    Friere offers little sympathy for the educator and society who employ the banking method, even in seemingly benign situations or situations of positive ‘revolution’, “Its objective is to call the attention of true humanist to the fact that they cannot use banking educational methods in the pursuit of liberation, for they would only negate that very pursuit. Nor may a revolutionary society inherit these methods from an oppressor society. The revolutionary society which practices banking education is either misguided or mistrusting of people” (Freire). Freire’s emphasis on liberation from the oppressed life not only requires that educators and society take active and aware roles in fighting ending oppression, but also highlights the role of the student in eradicating oppression. “Students, as they are increasingly posed with problems relating to themselves in the world and with the world, will feel increasingly challenged and obliged to respond to that challenge. Because they apprehend the challenge as interrelated to other problems within a total context no as a theoretical question” (Freire). The student must also actively engage the challenges, but as Freire states, will be willing to engage the challenges, because they relate to his or her direct and dynamic interest in the world. I question whether every student or person engaged with a taste of the task of engaging critical thought will enjoy or embody that path? Also, once society engages Freire’s model, what’s next? Or does that question even apply?

  8. Andrew Koenig on 12 Oct 2011 at 11:21 pm

    As a staunch defender of a classical style of education, I am skeptical of Friere’s problem-posing educational style. To argue just one aspect of a traditional response, children, especially at the primary school level, require a particular level of structure and discipline. While Freire claims under a negative light that the banking system turns students into receptacles designed to regurgitate the content of teachers’ narrations, I would argue that this is necessary of primary school children. It is critical that children learn the value of careful listening and respect for the authority of the teacher at an early age. This relationship needs to be in place to ensure that students are disciplined in class and recognize the teacher as the authority on the subjects being taught. While this system is certainly limiting of the type of thoughtful inquiry found in higher level classes, at a primary school level it is necessary to ensure that the same fundamentals are productively taught to all students.

  9. Amber Rybnick on 12 Oct 2011 at 11:31 pm

    While Elizabeth and Sarah assert that there is certain basic information that must be memorized before one can think critically about a subject, I think that Freire would argue that a student could attain this basic knowledge THROUGH critical thinking, as opposed to rote memorization. That is to say, critical thinking and dialogue foster knowledge DURING learning, not AFTER it. Since Freire’s arguments can be a bit verbose and seem somewhat impractical at times, it may be helpful to consider his problem-posing education in concrete examples. In the Jumpstart program that I participate in (a pre-school program that emphasizes preparing children of all economic backgrounds to enter kindergarten with the adequate literacy, motor, and social skills), writing is not merely taught through writing lessons in which the students mimic the script of the teachers. Instead, young students are allowed to discover their own writing skills alongside the teacher. These young pre-school students go through stages of drawing pictures to represent writing, scribbling writing, invented spelling, and conventional writing, among others. In particular, the invented spelling, in which a child creates his own spelling of words using letter-sound relationships (I lik dinososs = I like dinosaurs), demonstrates how even young children can discover knowledge through critical thinking. During this stage of learning, members of Jumpstart, like myself, are encouraged NOT to correct the young learner’s spelling as the criticism may deter the child’s desire to write. Instead, the Jumpstart member should write WITH the preschool child, not FOR them, an action that makes both the Jumpstart member and the child “co-investigators” of knowledge. The Jumpstart member does not say, “The way I wrote the word is correct and your spelling is wrong,” but instead fosters dialogue between himself and the child by asking, “How is your word and my word different? What letters does my word have? Let’s sound them out together!” In this way, critical thinking and Freire’s problem-posing method facilitate the learning of arguably one of the most basic, important skills in education, writing. In his “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” Freire points to the rote memorization of times tables as a negative example of learning in the banking system, in which knowledge does not transform the power of the student “receptacles.” One can argue that times tables are a basic math skill crucial to the learning of higher-level math concepts. However, learning times tables does not have to require rote memorization; teachers can instead employ a method that utilizes praxis relating to their students’ lives, a key component of Freire’s problem-posing method. For example, instead of the teacher instructing students to memorize that 4×4=16, he or she can help students discover the meaning of multiplication through methods that they already know, like addition. That is to say, teachers can demonstrate to students through examples involving their school or home life that 4 x 4 really means 4+4+4+4. In this way, students are thinking critically in order to attain knowledge, not just to reflect on the knowledge that they have already attained.

    By implementing these small changes in the instructions of teachers, I believe that Freire’s problem-posing method can be slowly incorporated into our school systems today. Freire would most likely disagree with this incorporation of his method into an already existing system since he believes that one must reject the banking system in its entirety for true liberation; he would probably also reject the small “experimental schools” that we proposed in class today to see if his problem-posing method would prove beneficial before extending the method to an entire generation of young impressionable learners. However, I believe that these small changes to teacher’s instructions could prove wildly successful, especially in the communities of the oppressed. As Elizabeth states, I am putting much emphasis on the teachers in this model (I do not use the term “blame” because I realize that these teachers may be victim of hegemony too and reproducing oppression without realizing it.) However, I think it is crucial to place responsibility on teachers for the learning of their students, especially in oppressed societies, the targeted audience of Freire’s piece. As Elizabeth states, “People invest in education because there is an expectation for a future that stems from that education.” However, students from the lower economic class or from the African American race (as we saw in our discussion of Perry, Steele, and Hilliard) do not always have this positive expectation. If economically or racially oppressed students have no incentives to work hard in school (for example, even if a Black male attains a degree, he still earns on average less than an identically educated White male), the cycle of their oppression will continue. By breaking the oppression of the banking system in schools, teachers have the ability to model a more just society within their schools. Freire’s problem-posing method allows teachers to use education as a practice of freedom, as opposed to a practice of domination. Through praxis, students can learn how knowledge relates directly to their life and how education can be used as a means of liberation from oppression. (We saw these similar thoughts in Perry, Steele, &Hilliard’s view of literacy as emancipation, in Mclaren’s view of macro objectives relating facts to the surrounding environment, and in Peters’ view of an educated man transforming his world view due to new knowledge.) As Ariana mentions, “teachers in low-income areas tend to use more directives and commands to students and focus on memorization rather than questioning ‘why’ things are.” However, Freire would argue that these oppressed areas lacking the problem-posing method are in fact in the most need of the problem-posing method to free them of their domination. The question is how we can encourage teachers in low-income societies to adopt methods more receptive of dialogue and discovery. Once again, I think making small changes is key to integrating Freire’s method. For example, a teacher stating, “This is what the author meant…” and a teacher claiming, “I THINK this is what the author meant…” achieve two completely different agenda. Whereas the first teacher reinforces the banking system of the straight acceptance of ideas put forth, the second teacher models critically thinking. With teachers and students acting as partners in the problem-posing method, teachers can instruct through example, not authority.

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