Reflection on Chapter 2 of Paolo Freire’s Peadagogy of the Oppressed
Key Concepts: The Banking Concept of Education; Biophily and Necorphily
The teacher-student relationship and The Banking Concept of Education
Paulo Freire is famous for his “Banking Concept of Education”. Just what is this concept? Basically he is saying that the traditional model of education is similar to a bank. The teacher deposits information into the head
s. The students become like “receptacles” and the aim is to fill the container with content which the student memorises and repeats. He describes this as a misguided system because “men cannot be truly human in this situation”. To be fully human there must be a praxis. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention through inquiry with the world and between people. In the banking system knowledge is given by people who think they are knowledgeable to people they think know nothing. This leave the student feeling alienated and there only to justify the teacher’s existence.
The question is, does this kind of education still exist today? The answer most certainly is yes. Indeed higher level students and lecturers, while many understand this concept in theory, and even desire it, find themselves trapped in the very system they want to challenge. Sometimes it feels like there is one system happening inside the classroom but outside on campus, at work or online there is a different kind of education. Yet people know they must play the system’s game in order to get their qualification. There is usually 12 weeks for a 10 credit module or 24 weeks for a longer module. At undergraduate level in particular there is an exam at the end to find out how much the students know. Most students at higher level know how to play this system, they read what they are prescribed to read and then they remember what they learned and reproduce it in the exam. I’m very good at this myself. Academics will say that it is almost impossible to have very high numbers (e.g. first year Arts) of students and do anything more than offer an exam. Lecturers often do want a different model but faced with the reality of time, regulations, numbers and resources, they often fail to do anything but pay lip service to the type of libertarian education Freire refers to. And many of them know this themselves.
For Freire education must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction, by reconciling the two poles in this relationship so that both are simultaneously teachers and students. The solution is not to “integrate’ them into the structure of oppression, but to transform that structure so that they can become “beings for themselves.” This kind of transformation does not benefit the oppressor which is why the oppressor favours the banking concept which avoids the “conscientization” of the oppressed.
I am hoping that this is what I am trying to do in my PhD research. It is extraordinarily difficult to achieve what Freire espouses within the reality of modules, accreditation, evaluation and assessment, all of which are so powerfully controlled. I am going to work outside this structure in an experiment to see what would really happy if we really tried very hard not to pay lip service to the idea of partnering with students and people in society who suffer some form of social exclusion and if we profoundly trust one another as a group of people who can co create meaning in relation to local and global social justice issues.
A PhD is an opportunity to work outside of the normal modular structures and to bring together students with a diverse range of people with different abilities, nationalities, age, legal status, sexual orientation and wellness concerns. This is the reality of a real community and if we are, as Freire suggests to have real solidarity, we require true communication. Freire says that the teacher cannot think for his students, nor can he impose his (and Freire often uses “he”) thoughts on them. Authentic thinking, thinking that is concerned about reality, does not take place in ivory tower isolation, but only in communication. These sentiments are directly relevant to what I am trying to explore in my own research.
Biophily and Necrophily
Because banking education begins with a false understanding of men as objects, it cannot promote the development of “biophily,” but instead produces its opposite: “necrophily.” Oppression, or overwhelming control, like the banking system of education, is necrophilic. It attempts to control thinking and action. Those truly committed to liberation must reject the banking concept in its entirety, adopting instead a concept of men as conscious beings, and replacing deposit-making with the posing of the problems of men in their relations with the world. “Problem-posing” education, responding to the essence of consciousness – intentionality – rejects communiqués and embodies communication..
Liberating education consists in acts of cognition, not transferring of information. The practice of problem-posing education entails at the outset that the teacher-student contradiction be resolved. Through dialogue, the teacher-of-the-students and the students-of-the-teacher cease to exist and a new term emerges: teacher-student with students-teachers. The teacher and the students are teaching and learning at the same time. They become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow. In this process, arguments based on “authority” are no longer valid; in order to function. The students – no longer docile listeners – are now critical co-investigators in dialogue with the teacher.
In Freire’s model the teacher presents the material to the students for their consideration, and re-considers his earlier considerations as the students express their own. There is a constant unveiling of reality and a striving for the emergence of consciousness and critical intervention in reality. I would prefer to go further than that and explore how the teacher can be more like a guide or a facilitator rather than the person who is always “presenting the material”. I would like to see the group I will work with presenting their own reality and as a group engaging in a learning experience which serves to increase knowledge and skills but also leads to solutions and collaborative actions which are truly meaningful to all concerned.
This would appear to concur with Freire’s notion of education as the practice of freedom. He says that education is about authentic reflection about men in their relations with the world, not as abstract, isolated entities unattached from the world. In problem-posing education, men develop their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world not as a static reality, but as a reality, in process, in transformation. Starting in the “here and now” people must see their existence as something that can be changed, and this means being dialogical from the outset.