Philosophy Of Education: Freire And The Banking Concept Of Education

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With the rise of technology, education is more attainable than ever before. With websites and platforms to become educated such as YouTube and Khan Academy, a more unconventional approach to learning is on the rise. However, the method in which these mediums educate the masses stays relatively true to the banking concept of education. A concept in philosophy originally explored by Brazilian philosopher Paulo Freire who describes this method as “fundamentally narrative character, [a] relationship involving a narrative subject(teacher) and patient, listening objects (the students), (68)”. In simpler terms, it is a method of teaching and learning where students simply store the information relayed to them by the teacher. They are not asked to participate in any other way, simply absorb the information. This type of approach makes the world static and unchangeable, students are simply supposed to “fit in”. But is that the correct method to truly educate individuals?

In contrast, Freire proposes the problem-posing method for education which is mostly concerned with the task of presenting reality and ignoring the truth. Dialogue is treated as a vital part of this method where the teacher is no longer the one who teaches but instead is taught through dialogue with the students, who in turn, while being taught, are also educating the teacher. There is no hierarchy in this method, teachers and students are all equal. In problem-posing education, people develop their power to become critical thinkers and perceive the way they exist in the world. Through this, they do not see the world as a static reality, but as a reality in the process. Yet the question remains of whether or not this method is practical. How would we measure the results of this method if there is no sense of direction between the dialogues of the student and teacher? For many, these questions explain the purpose of problem-posing and its effectiveness in a different context compared to others.

In this paper, I will address these questions and explain how the problem-posing method is only a means to criticize different methods of teaching. However, if one extracts different principles from the problem-posing method we can force it to become practical in a special context or discipline. I will argue that, though this method theoretically would work, in an application where ideas don’t always go by what is thought should happen, it would not. Thus, making this method more of a rubric to criticize how well other methods would perform. Having made this stance, I will defend it against common objections and show these objections as a way for you, as the reader, to decide whether or not my argument is reasonable.

Before discussing my reasons, I want to clarify what I am truly arguing for. My thesis is that the problem-posing method in its purest form is impractical through application and therefore is only a device for criticizing other models. If taking different principles of the problem-posing method, one can create a unique method that is practical for a specific context in education. I will not elaborate on how to make the problem-posing method better and why the problem-posing should be the device to criticize other methods. That is a different topic and for this argument, we will assume that the problem-posing method is the most effective and purest way of teaching.

Let us assume that the purpose of being educated is to become autonomous and to be able to think critically of the world around us. Society evaluates whether someone can think critically by standards that are set in place and tools that measure the track of every student. These measures take the form of exams, presentations, and standardized tests. How would a teacher be able to teach while assessing these mandated standards that they must hit upon in class? If at the purest form, the problem-posing is used to educate in a practice of freedom, the direction of dialogue between the student-teacher and teacher-student would be formed organically. This can cause them to go off on a tangent very quickly because there is no single direction to teach, only an ideal. This form of teaching is like an explorer trying to find his destination but has no sense of where he is and no way to find this out, all he can do is keep sailing and hope. Similar to the problem-posing method.

Another main concern of the problem-posing method is the lack of connection that Freire gives between theory and practice. How exactly would teachers implement it? The difficult part of taking problem-posing and implementing the theory into a classroom practice was the lack of examples provided by Freire. Due to the lack of practical examples, teachers would have trouble implementing it effectively.

Several different barriers can surface that can be limited or prohibited from their ability to implement the problem-posing method. One of these barriers is class involvement specifically the students. Why would students want to be involved in the class in the first place? Problem-posing method survival is dependent on the dialogical relation between teacher-students and students-teacher. Many students from my experience and don’t want to be part of the class discussion. If students are not eager to know the truth or even want to think critically the problem-posing method well fail. When Freire explains his position, he assumes that students and teachers hold the same goal, of learning. In reality, sometimes students and teachers just want to go over the curriculum.

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Time. Time is another barrier that was discussed heavily throughout this method. Many classes lack time already to fit in with the standards given. Everything is driven by the curriculum. When do teachers have time to do that? There’s no time for any depth in the curriculum, none because teachers are pushing so hard to get so much in. With many teachers having to go through Intervention meetings; Individualized Education Program; content meetings, grade-level meetings, leadership team meetings, grading and providing students with feedback; and so on. The problem-posing method doesn’t take into consideration class time and the amount of time it would be needed for each student to learn from an individual. With classes now in public schools have 30 to 31 students for every teacher. How would a teacher have an effective dialogue with every student, there would be no possible way.

For these reasons, the problem-posing model of education is not a practical way to teach due to barriers presented. Because of this, I believe the method is only a model to judge different models of education, such as the banking method. Mostly because it simple to understand and to follow and can be a way to judge. That is mostly because the principles of problem-solving education are ideals that we should strive for.

Although the problem-posing method is only a device to criticize other types of methods, one takes the main theories and philosophy of the problem-posing method to create a new method. If we can take a student-centered method for a method that uses dialogue as one of the main components of teaching. With teachers not only learning and teaching but rather leading the discussion towards the desired curriculum that they need to complete. This method would work in context of philosophy.

In my vision would be done by the teacher describing the lesson or the content using a code. These can be written up dialogue in order to direct the future discussion in class by using a variety of writing materials. This would work perfectly because philosophy in a sense its understanding specific theories and fundamentals of knowledge, existence, and reality. The conversation can go different directions for this discipline because that is what I believe is the whole point of philosophy. To think critically of the problem in hand and create a solution and is reasonable enough to be considered as a possible solution. Problem-posing itself is a philosophy, a way of thinking about students and their ability to think critically and to reflect analytically on their lives.

Many objections can be raised against why the problem-posing method is practical by Freire standards. For the rest of this paper, I will consider a objection that state why it is practical or why it isn’t a device to criticize other methods.

“Just because it’s hard to implement doesn’t mean that it’s impractical.” Criticized for that just because it has these barriers doesn’t mean its impractical. However, the biggest part of implementing is the training it takes for teachers and students to have the problem-posing method mentality. You must go back to teacher training. It must be a mindset of teachers and it’s a total shift so you couldn’t take a traditional teacher out of a traditional classroom and expect them to teach using problem-posing pedagogy. It’s not going to happen, so you must go back to teacher training but then you have to clear the slate. You must get teachers to change their paradigm. The only thing that most of us know, until now, is the banking concept. Changing the paradigm for teachers will be the biggest deterrent in teachers who do not want to implement it.

For me the use of Freire’s utopian language, for Freire for the oppressed to be able to do something about their struggle for their liberation, they must see the reality of oppression. In other words, Freire’s method cannot be meaningfully implemented for non-utopian ends. And that it’s the main reason why it won’t be practical in its purest form because the result of modern education is not only to create autonomous citizens but also filling in the mandatory status quo that promotes complacency. With high expectations in schooling to meet standards, and in turn, affect the funding for these public schools. Why risk it? Even though it may promote or even let students become better critical thinkers, is that enough to risk the consequences of not using the traditional route? For many, that answer is no.

The general conclusion that I wish I have established, is that the Freire’s method is not a means to educate but rather a guideline on the best way to educate. We cannot implement this method without destroying the main purpose, which is to educate as the practice of freedom. I truly believe one can educate others by not the practice of freedom, but rather limiting the practice of freedom and slowly letting them to become autonomous. We should instead, all take problem-posing mentality when it comes to teaching and use it the best of our ability with the methods at hand. 

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