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Freire’s Concept of Education: A Multi-Lane Highway; Not a One-Way Street

In his narrative “The Banking Concept of Education”, Paulo Freire condemns the oppressive nature of the traditional education system which he contends serves only to dole out information which students are expected to take onboard without question, discussion or other interaction or critical analysis.  This “banking concept of education” as he calls it, works much like someone taking money to the bank and depositing it for safekeeping, hence the name.  In the case of education, knowledge is the currency, the teacher is the depositor, and the students are the bank, the receptacles where the currency of knowledge is deposited and held for safekeeping.  His narrative speaks to the oppression of this system both on the students and the teachers who are trapped by conventional thinking that “the teacher teaches and the students are taught” (Freire para. 8).  Even though the banking concept of education has worked well to impart knowledge in an orderly manner for years, Freire seeks to remake this traditional education system because he believes educators and students must engage in critical thinking and dialogue to learn and he believes the banking concept of education supports oppression of the learners over the teachers.

Freire obviously abhors the concept of the banking concept of education as evidenced by his describing the teacher in this scenario relating reality in a “motionless, static, compartmentalized, and predictable” (para. 2) way while the students are merely “patient, listening objects” (para. 1) to the teacher’s narrative.  These descriptions depict an educational system that is not only sterile, lifeless, and ultimately counterproductive to long-term comprehension but also one in which creativity, a necessary component of learning, is stifled. 

To combat the sterility and lifelessness of the banking concept of education, Freire states “Knowledge emerges only through invention and reinvention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry men pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other” (para. 5).  Interaction between teacher and student is key to the real education process that Freire advocates for in this narrative.  The polar dichotomy of teacher and student in the banking concept of education must be reconciled, as Freire notes by stating “Education must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously teachers and students” (para. 7). 

As brought out in the above writing, the banking concept of education cannot sustain true learning or education because true education requires, as Freire notes near the end of his narrative, “Authentic thinking, thinking that is concerned about reality, does not take place in ivory tower isolation, but only in communication” (para. 21).  One of the most profound examples of why the banking concept does not work is in Freire’s statement “The teacher cannot think for his students, nor can he impose his thought on them” (para. 21).  This one statement forms the logic for moving away from the banking concept of education where education is reduced to mechanical and rote memorization and regurgitation of facts without any substance or understanding.  As Freire notes throughout his narrative, only through interaction between teach and student in the classroom does true education exist.

Work Cited

Freire, Paulo. “The Banking Concept of Education,” from Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum, 1993. Translated by Myra Bergman Ramos.

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