From Banking System of Education to Problem solving Education


Abstract: Education is the best defined as the nurture of personal growth. Over the years the pedagogy of education has been undergoing a revolutionary transformation. Paul Freire, a Brazil born educator captured the imagination of many with the concept of ‘problem posing education.’ Freire distinguished the conventional method of education which he called ‘banking system of education’ from problem posing education. This article draws a line between the two systems by showing the characteristic features that mark both the systems. In banking system education is seen as transmission of a body of knowledge from teacher to the students. It is a teacher-centered education in which the teacher is a depositor of knowledge into students who are passive receivers. Problem posing education, on the other hand, highlights the shared roles of both teachers as well as students. It allows room for cognitive thought processes where exploration and new discovery are welcomed. Introduction of problem posing education enables the students to be critical and creative in thinking and learning.

1. Introduction

Over the years, the concept of education has been undergoing a rapid revolutionary transformation. Besides the constant upgrading of academic syllabus and curriculum modern educational scenario is witnessing a radical shift in the pedagogy applied in the implementation of education. Paulo Reglus Neves Freire, a Brazilian educationalist, introduced the concept of problem solving method of education in contrast to the banking system of education, which has been prevalent since the beginning of the history of education.  In his book, Pedagogy of the Oppressedand his subsequent works he argues for a system of education in which the authority of the educator is never degenerated into authoritarianism.[1]

2. What is Education?

Aristotle defined education as the “creation of a sound body and a sound mind.”[2] Today, education involves more than mere mental and physical health. It can be best described as “the nurture of personal growth.”[3]  While the first definition stresses the result, second definition focuses on the process. In general education is understood as a progressive personal development.

A comprehensive view of education takes into consideration two factors, viz. the individual to be educated and the educator together with the society in which education takes place. Various pedagogies that developed in the course of time, stressed one or the other form of relationship between the educator and the educated. Both the banking system and problems posing method are two different, in a way contrasting, views of education.

3. Banking System of Education

According to Freire “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.”[4] It “transforms students into receiving objects. It attempts to control thinking and action, leads men and women to adjust to the world, and inhibits their creative power.”[5] Here just as someone deposits money into a bank the educator deposits predetermined information into the mind of a student, which is viewed as an empty vessel to be filled. There is no two-way dialogue.

3.1 Teachers Depositors, Students are Depositories

This form of education is fundamentally narrative in character in which the students patiently receive, memorize and repeat.[6] Teacher who deposits knowledge into passive students narrate reality as if it were motionless, static, compartmentalized, and predictable. While he attempts to fill the students mind with the content of his narration her words are emptied of their concreteness and become hollow and alienated.[7] It makes the students into mere containers or receptacles to be filled by the teacher. The more completely she fills the receptacles the better a teacher she is: the more meekly the receptacles permit themselves to be filled, the better students they are.[8] In this method memorization takes precedence over understanding and application of the knowledge received.

It is a teacher-centered education, where students are not encouraged to think critically. Here the teacher who knows everything teaches the students who know nothing. The teacher thinks and the students are thought about. The teacher talks and the students listen meekly. In such a method the teacher is one who disciplines and the students are disciplined. We can notice that the teacher-centered character of banking system brings about an enforced curriculum in the process of education. The teacher chooses and enforces his choice, and the students comply. Here the students are not consulted regarding the program content of way of application. They are expected to adapt to it.[9]

3.2 Denial of Learner’s Potentiality

Being a Marxist humanist, Freire recognized the severe negligence of human potentiality in banking system of education. This model of education reduces the critical and creative thinking of the students and transforms them into passive objects and thus dehumanizes them. The students gradually becomes inactive objects of deposition far from being the active participant in the classrooms.  He observes that it “anesthetizes and inhibits creative power” and “attempts to maintain the submersion of consciousness.”[10] Again he says, “The more students work at storing the deposits entrusted to them, the less they develop the critical consciousness which would result from their intervention in the world as transformers of that world. The more completely they accept the passive role imposed on them, the more they tend simply to adapt to the world as it is and to the fragmented view of reality deposited in them.”[11]

Banking system creates a feeling of inferiority within students as teachers are portrayed as having completed autonomy in the process of education. For students involved in a classroom where the pedagogical choice of the instructor is the banking concept, the desire of the student to question the format of the class, to question the instructor, or to participate in the discussion is minimal or nonexistent. Here effective education leading to the development of one’s full potentiality becomes an impossibility. It is in this context that the shift in the pedagogy of education becomes relevant.

4. Problem Posing Education

Problem posing education is a form information trade, where the teacher and students share roles. Freire shuns baking method or the problem-solving method of education. In his view, it does not humanize a person for it does not generate critical attitude towards reality. He holds that a person can be humanize only to the extent to which she is able to problematize the reality for it is from problematization that critical and objective understanding of the reality emerges. Freire opines that if education is the relation between subjects in the knowing process mediated by the knowable object in which the educator permanently reconstructs the act of knowing then it must be problem-posing.[12]

Within dialogue and problem-posing teacher-student and student-teacher both move forward together to develop a critical attitude. It is this problem-posing in dialogue that awakens awareness.[13] It germinates epistemological curiosity in the students ’minds. Hence, the task of the teacher is to present to the students a problem the content and not to discourse on it.[14]

In contrast with banking system of education, problem-posing offers all subject matter as historical products to be questioned rather than as central bank wisdom to be accepted. The responsibility of the problem-posing teacher is to diversify subject matter and to use students’ thought and speech as the base for developing critical understanding of personal experience, unequal conditions in society, and existing knowledge. In this democratic pedagogy, the teacher is not filling empty minds with official or unofficial knowledge but is posing knowledge in any form as a problem for mutual inquiry.[15]

4.1 Teacher-student Realtionship

The practice of problem-posing education entails at the outset that the teacher-student contradiction to be resolved. Education becomes a shared process. “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 is no longer merely the-one-who-teaches, but one who is himself taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach. They become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow.”[16]

In problem posing education the teacher no longer uses her authority at the expense of the students’ freedom. Freire says, “Here, no one teaches another, nor is anyone self-taught. People teach each other, mediated by the world, by the cognizable objects which in banking education are “owned” by the teacher.”[17]

As a method of teaching, problem-posing involves listening and dialogue. Thought learning can take place even in one way of communication, which characterizes banking system it is a passive process.  In problem posing method education is seen as training for there is only one way transference of knowledge. The role of the educator is not merely transferring the knowledge but opening up a way where students can learn on his own accord.[18]

4.2 Place of critical thinking:

Critical understanding which is indispensible for humanization is the goal of problem posing method. It is an instrument for rejecting the cultural myth which people retain despite the realization of new reality.[19] Our ability to reflect results not just in a vague and uncommitted awareness but in the exercise of a profoundly transforming action upon the determining reality.[20] Learning is not a passive acceptance but rather necessitates curious presence of students confronted with the reality of the world. It requires their transforming action on reality. It implies invention and re-invention. It claims from each person a critical reflection on the very act of knowing.[21] In learning process the only person who really learns is the one, who appropriates what is learned, who apprehends and thereby re-invents that learning and is able to apply it in the concrete existential situation. As problem posing method is aimed at germinating epistemological curiosity in the students’ mind the task of the teacher is no longer to handing over the solutions as if they were a matter  already done, constituted, completed and finished. Here the teacher presents a problem and proposes that students “enter into” it critically.[22]

4.3 Democratization of Education

It is the two-way process of learning that necessitates the democratization of education. In democratic education both the teacher and the students have the rights to their say and it is grounded in mutual self-respect and trust. The democratic education is founded on faith, on the belief that the teacher and students not only can but should discuss all their problems and that of the world.[23] The power of democratic educator lies in exemplary coherence and that is what sustains her integrity and authority. A teacher who says one thing and does another is irresponsible, and not only ineffective but also harmful. A democratic educator cannot allow one’s authority to become atrophied, for that would exacerbate the learners’ freedom.[24] The learner should be given the space to explore, imagine and to express her findings. Dialogism is a requirement of human nature and it is also a sign of educators’ democratic stand.[25] In addition, dialogism presupposes maturity, a spirit of adventure, confidence in questioning and seriousness in providing answers.[26] It is this dialogical character of democratic education that really fulfills the purpose of education.

4.4 Education for Conscientization

Conscientizing education represents the development of the awakening of critical consciousness.[27] Here, the task of the teacher is to discuss the existential issues in the problematizing dialogical conception of education and thereby help the students’ to view the issues as the real concrete problems.[28] The knowledge here is not extended from those who consider they know to those who consider they do not know. In fact, the knowledge is built up in relation between human beings and the world, relations of transformations, and perfects itself in the critical problematization of relations. The effort required of teacher is not one of extension but of conscientizing which helps to assume critically as subjects the task of transforming the world and thereby humanize oneself and the other.[29] The teachers’ role is to propose problems about codified existential situations in order to help the learner arrive at an increasingly critical view of reality.[30] The act of knowing then must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their situation. In conscientizing we are not simply thinking about great philosophical systems, but rather we are thinking of how ideas take concrete shape in the actions and minds of individuals and groups, in order to interpret the historic situation and change it.[31]

5. Conclusion

The movie, Dead Poets Society, illustrates the difference between the banking concept and a problem-posing education. The movie highlighted a teacher, Mr. Keating, in his attempt to provide students with a thought provoking, intellectual experience within his classroom. Mr. Keating shares with the headmaster that learning to think for oneself should be the ultimate goal of the education in general. Freire understood that if the learner was not connected to the content or did not see the relevance, then the level of motivation and attention for the material is decreased. Even more importantly, he advocated for complete collaboration between teacher and students.

Banking system of education has created a climate of learning for examinations and has established a more top-down approach toward teaching and learning. Freire’s approach to teaching and learning provided push-back against the all-knowing teacher depositing information into the heads of students so that we can ask them to recall it on demand. His approach was a method to help teachers see a different ways to approach and to teach students.

Today, those governing the educational institutes are becoming more and more aware of the defects of the banking system of education. We are witnessing a change in the perception of what schools should look like, the role of students and the teacher, and the continued belief that schools should continue to be places to sit, listen, memorize, and take examinations involving regurgitation.

Teachers using the banking concept are not preparing students to live and participate in a democratic society. Teachers practicing the banking concept may be telling students how to live and participate in a democratic society, but students are not able to experience the process of participating when the teacher does not allow them to participate. Teachers practicing problem posing strategies provide the opportunities for students to participate and experience the process. Therefore, teachers have an ethical obligation to use more progressive curriculum and instructional methods in order to meet the fundamental responsibility of public education.

by Prof. Marina Philip


[1] Peter Mayo, “Paulo Freire 1921-1997: An appreciation,”, accessed on March 13, 2016.

[2] Umar Farooq, “Aristotle: Theory, View, Aim, Curriculum and Method of Education.”, accessed on March 13, 2016.

[3] D. Vijaya Bharathy, Educational Philosophies of Swami Vivekananda and John Dewy, Ed., Divumarti Bhaskara Rao (New Delhi: APH Publishing Corporation, 2000), 1-2.

[4] Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Trans. Mayra Bergman Ramos (London: Continuum, 2005), 72.

[5] Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 77.

[6] Freire, Pedagogy of the oppressed, 72.

[7] Freire, Pedagogy of the oppressed, 71.

[8] Freire, Pedagogy of the oppressed, 72.

[9] Freire, Pedagogy of the oppressed, 73.

[10] Freire, Pedagogy of the oppressed, 81.

[11] Freire, Pedagogy of the oppressed, 73.

[12] Paulo Freire, Education for Critical Consciousness (New York: Continuum Publishing company, 1998), 152-153.

[13] Freire, Education for Critical Consciousness, 127.

[14] Freire, Education for Critical Consciousness, 153-155.

[15] Mary E. Boyce, “A Problem Posing Approach,” see, accessed on March 14, 2016.

[16] Freire, Pedagogy of the oppressed, 80.

[17] Freire, Pedagogy of the oppressed, 80.

[18] Paulo Freire, Daring to Dream: Toward a Pedagogy of Unfinished (Boulder: Paradigm          Publishers, 2007), 37.

[19] Paulo Freire, Cultural Action for Freedom (Massachusetts: Penguin Books, 1972), 78.

[20] Freire, Cultural Action for Freedom, 52.

[21] Freire, Education for Critical Consciousness, 101.

[22] Freire, Education for Critical Consciousness, 153-155.

[23] Freire, Education for Critical Consciousness, 38.

[24] Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Heart, (New York: Continuum , 2003), 90.

[25] Freire, Pedagogy of the Heart, 92.

[26] Freire, Pedagogy of the Heart, 99.

[27] Freire, Education for Critical Consciousness, 19.

[28] Freire, Education for Critical Consciousness, 109.

[29] Freire, Education for Critical Consciousness, 110.

[30] Freire, Cultural Action for Freedom, 36.

[31] Freire & Antonio, Learning to Question: A Pedagogy of Liberation, 5.


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