The Banking Method of Education
The Student And The Teacher...A Story Of  Unrequited Love

    Have you ever sat row upon row, staring at the backs of other students, and being bored out of your skull? Have you ever stood up in front of a classroom of silent students and talked about a particular topic (of interest or not?) for an agonizing few hours. If you have, then you are familiar with what Paulo Freire describes as the ‘banking concept of education’. In this system, the teacher becomes a narrative character who narrates ‘education’ to her/his students, who are listening patiently. This system turns students "into ‘receptacles’ to be ‘filled’ by the teacher," (Freire 1970:72) and negates the individuality of the student, including their unique styles of learning, and the opportunity to either give, or have their input heard. Students are expected to receive information, file it away, only to be regurgitated during examinations. Any attempts by the student to creatively use the information being ‘deposited’ by their teacher is prematurely squashed.

    The banking method of education creates a binary where the teacher has an essential role in the students’ education, which then justifies the position of the teacher. The relationship fosters submission, or meekness in the student, who is then more easily controlled by an outside body. It also creates a pattern of speaking that does not allow for listening (a necessary action in dialogue). The roles of the student and teacher fall into an interplay that reflects the colonialistic and oppressive nature of our society. For example, ‘the teacher knows everything, and the students know nothing", "the teacher chooses and enforces his choice, and the students comply", "the teacher acts and the students have the illusion of acting through the action of the teacher", "the teacher confuses the authority of knowledge with his or her own professional authority, which she/he sets in opposition to the freedom of the students". (Freire 1970:73)

    Knowledge cannot happen with the banking method of teaching. Freire defines "knowledge [as] emerg[ing] only through intervention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other" (Freire 1970:72). Education, as the practice of freedom, must begin by breaking the conventional roles of the student and the teacher (oppressed/ oppressor). This can be achieved through dialogue (the encounter of people in conversation in order to name the world), which has the effect of making the student/ teacher relationship reciprocal, one learns from the other. I do not, however want to create another binary; Freire’s idea of liberatory education makes both learners and teachers of us all. We are all participants in educating each other and ourselves.

    Liberatory education works against the alienation of the student from their decision-making processes by posing problems in a dialectical setting. This changes the role of the student from an ‘object’ to a ‘subject’. It is a process of authentic liberalization, of humanization. It fosters a setting that empowers participants to make their own decisions, name and explore issues, and challenge their place in the world.

    For "liberation is a praxis- the action of men and women reflecting upon the world in order to transform it" (Freire 1970:79). Problem-posing or liberatory education rejects the banking style of education as a style of domination, and moves towards the conscientization of the people; a process of constantly breaking down constructed myths that captivate people in the roles of ‘objects’ in a world where only ‘subjects’ have power, and becoming a ‘subject’ by heightening ones awareness of such contradictions through dialogue and becoming an active figure in changing that reality.

Freire, Paulo