Paulo Freire: Pedagogy of the Oppressed – the banking and libertarian models of education

This is a summary of Paulo Freire’s explanation of the banking and libertarian models of education, from The Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1996 Penguin Edition).

The point of education and human action is “the individual’s ontological and historical vocation to be more fully human.” (37)

Two models of education

The banking model of education is about depositing information into passive students

“an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues comminiquĂ©s and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. This is the “banking” concept of education,…” (53)

The banking model requires students to adapt to the world, and encourages servility

“the banking concept of education regards men as adaptable, manageable beings.” (54)

“The more completely they accept the passive role imposed on them, the more they tend simply to adapt to the world as it is…” (54)

“Implicit in the banking concept is the assumption of a dichotomy between human beings and the world: a person is merely in the world, not with the world or with others; the individual is spectator, not re-creator.” (56)

Libertarian education

Education is not about integrating people into an oppressive society, but about understanding and transforming the world

“Authentic liberation – the process of humanization – is not another deposit to be made in men. Liberation is a praxis: the action and reflection of men and women upon their world in order to transform it.” (60)

“Problem-posing education affirms men and women as beings in the process of becoming – as unfinished, uncompleted beings in and with a likewise unfinished reality.”(65)

“Whereas banking education anesthetizes and inhibits creative power, problem-posting education involves a constant unveiling of reality.” (62)

“Education as the practice of freedom – as opposed to education as the practice of domination – denies that man is abstract, isolated, independent, and unattached to the world; it also denies that the world exists as a reality apart from people. Authentic reflection considers neither abstract man nor the world without people, but people in their relations with the world.” (62)

What does libertarian education look like in practice?

“Through dialogue, 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… Here, no one teaches another, nor is anyone self-taught. People teach each other, mediated by the world, by the cognizable objects…” (61)

How to create a libertarian program of education

“The starting point for organizing the program content of education or political action must be the present, existential, concrete situation, reflecting the aspirations of the people.” (76)

“education… cannot present its own program but must search for this program dialogically with the people,” (105)

“the investigation of thematics involves the investigation of the people’s thinking – thinking which occurs only in and among people together seeking out reality… Even if people’s thinking is superstitious or naive, it is only as they rethink their assumptions in action that they can change. Producing and acting upon their own ideas – not consuming those of others – must constitute that process.” (89)

“the team of educators is ready to represent to the people their own thematics, in a systematized and amplified form. The themetics which have come from the people return to them – not as contents to be deposited, but as problems to be solved.” (104)

“after several days of dialogue with the culture circle participants, the educators can ask the participants directly: ‘What other themes or subjects could we discuss besides these?’ As each person replies, the answer is noted down and is immediately proposed to the group as a problem.” (104-5)

  • martinlugton

    A note on translation: Libertarian is an odd phrase to use, as mentioned on twitter here by @NomadWarMachine:

    I decided to stick with the translation in my text in my summary, but I’d agree that ‘liberation’ makes a lot more sense. ‘Libertarian’ has a lot of other baggage that I don’t think is relevant, helpful or intended in this context.

    • Sarah Honeychurch

      Cheers, Martin, I thought I’d come here to see my comment, and I noticed that you are using the same version of the book that I am – i.e. the Penguin 1996 version. I can’t find any mention of libertarian in that book at all – the chapter indices are all to liberation and the passage you quote above from p60 is also about liberation. I hate to be a pedant (lies: I love being a pedant and a grammar geek), but are you sure your version really refers to libertarian?