Paulo Freire’s Philosophy of Education

The dominant historical and political circumstances of neo-colonialism and imperialism molded pedagogy of Paulo. Paulo Freire, one of the prominent representatives of critical pedagogy, is widely-known for his libertarian concepts in this field. He had strongly and repeatedly criticized the prevailing educational methods within a broad framework, which he calls banking education, by analyzing the viewpoint of society in line with his experience in Latin America.

According to him, the social relations are made authoritative and dominant by advantaged persons who belong to the class of oppressors. The remaining members of the society constitute the oppressed. According to Freire this imperative process is expedited by many tools, one of these tools is the conventional education, which he named as banking education. Freire’s understanding of society and social relations is based on class relations. He views oppressor-oppressed dialectic in social dynamics.

Freire discusses two types of knowledge, unconscious, sometimes practical knowledge and critical, reflective or theory knowledge. Beliefs are moulded into knowledge by dialogue and critical thinking. Knowledge should not be restricted to logic and content, or emotions and superstitions, but should search for the relations between understandings and feelings.

His critique of ‘banking education’ and his ‘problem posing’ pedagogical recommendation are based on his idea of man, his consciousness and relation to the world. By acting as a depositor, the teacher ‘domesticates’ the child into oppressor’s consciousness. The teacher-taught relationship and process of education has been severely damaged by this banking concept. To him, banking education is based on false assumption, which consider men as objects and works for the continuation of ‘domination’, whereas problem-posing education through its pedagogy thrives for liberation.

Freire says ‘Implicit in banking concept is the assumption of a dichotomy between man and the world; man is merely in the world, not with the world or with others; man is spectator, not re-creator. In this view, man is not a conscious being; he is rather a possessor of consciousness; an empty ‘mind’ passively open to the reception of deposits of reality from the world outside.’ The programme content of problem posing education is generated from the investigation into this ‘thematic universe’. In order to conscientize human beings, the technique of dialogue and praxis will best serve the purpose according to Freire. Implies, that learning is a process where presented knowledge, is shaped through deliberation, dialogue and critical analysis. The main objective of education is to raise the awareness of the students to mold them into subjects, rather than objects, of the world. To achieve this, students need to be taught to think democratically and to constantly question and make meaning from everything they learn.

Freire strongly believed that in knowing which a social process, inherent individual dimension cannot be forgotten or even devalued. The process of knowing, which involves the whole conscious self, emotions, memory, affects an epistemologically enquiring mind, focused on the object, equally involves other thinking subjects, that is, others are also capable of knowing and curious. This simply means that the relationship called “thinking” is not enclosed in a relationship “thinking subject – knowable object” because it extends to other thinking subjects.

Freire believed that teaching is a political and democratic process. The teacher must learn about (and from) the student to co-construct the knowledge in ways that are meaningful to the student. The teachers must become learners and the learners must become teachers. In order to become productive subjects of the meaning or knowledge of the object, learners must consider themselves thinking subjects like the teachers. Through this dialectic association, teaching and learning will turn into knowing and re-knowing. The learners will know the unknown, and the educators re-know the known.

In critical pedagogy Freire advocated that teachers and students must be made aware of the “politics” that surround education. The way students are taught and the way teaching learning process serves the political agenda. Teachers bring their political ideas and philosophies into the classroom.

Freire believed that “education makes sense because women and men learn that through learning they can make and remake themselves, because women and men are able to take responsibility for themselves as beings capable of knowing – of knowing that they know and knowing that they don’t”.

According to Freire the purpose of education is liberation; it is achieved through authentic dialogue and action in which everyone speaks one’s own word with the mediation of the world to name the world followed by appropriate action. This, in a nutshell, is the ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’. The major contributions of Paulo’s educational philosophy are:

  • He emphasized that education is a dialogical (two way process) rather a curricular form. The dialogue should bring teacher and the taught together in spite of teacher acting on the taught. A dialogue requires critical thinking; in turn it generates critical thinking and deepens the understanding in the participants.
  • The dialogue need to be accompanied by the informed action in order to make a difference in the world
  • Conscientization – developing consciousness that is understood to have the power to transform reality.
  • Continuous emphasis on lived experience of participants to make education more meaningful

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