The "Banking" Concept of Education

by Paulo Freire
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What is the banking concept of education?

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Freire uses the banking concept of education to discuss how education is used by those in the position of power to continue a structure that ensures their own control.  In Freire's work, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, he suggests that teachers and administrators who wish to maintain power and control over their children treat instruction as if learning is like a bank.  In this metaphor, the teacher "deposits" information into the students, who are passive objects in the learning process.  Like all good accounts, students collect the "information" and simply absorb that which is deposited.  There is no questioning and there is nothing reciprocal in this process.  The teacher "banks" the information in the student by depositing it in them.  

Freire argues that the banking concept is used to maintain control over students:

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 communiques and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. This is the "banking' concept of education...   In the banking concept of education, knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing. Projecting an absolute ignorance onto others, a characteristic of the ideology of oppression, negates education and knowledge as processes of inquiry.

Freire suggests that the banking image to describe modern instruction helps to maintain control.  Teachers and authority figures "deposit" information such as isolated facts that contribute to the passive and static notion of learning.  For their part, students are receptacles in which they simply absorb fact after fact.  There is no inquiry and there is no reflection about their place in the learning process.  The banking concept of education is one that secures the hierarchy in learning, ensuring that authority is not threatened by student critique or student power.  In this, Freire argues that the banking idea, something that is accepted in society as intrinsically good without questioning, is a tool of control, demonstrating how education organization is about power more than anything else.

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