The initial concept of establishing educational institutions was proposed with the intention of preparing students for the struggles and complexities of later life. However, today competition between students in modern educational institutions has risen to such heights that while striving to attain exemplary grades, we seem to have lost sight of the primary purpose of education.
Instead of preparing students for life ‘outside the classroom’, educational instructors seem to be more intent on filling their students minds with the material contained within certain prescribed text books rather than encouraging them to think, discover and understand the material for themselves.
Brazilian educator, Paolo Freire categorized this ‘filling of students minds with material’ under a concept of education that he termed the ‘banking’ concept of education, where the educators simply ‘deposited’ information into the minds of their students – “education thus becomes an act of depositing (information), in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. ” (Freire 318)
In his essay ‘The Achievement of Desire’, author Richard Rodriguez categorizes himself under Hoggarts definition of a ‘scholarship boy’ who according to Hoggart “must move between environments, his home and the classroom, which are cultural extremes, opposed. ” (Rodriguez 517) As the son of a Mexican immigrant studying in the United States, Rodriguez was exposed to the ideals and the thought process that western education promoted in a manner that his parents were never fortunate enough to.
As Rodriguez’s education progressed, his thoughts began to evolve in a manner that began to create a certain degree of separation from his Spanish speaking family. This degree of separation that Rodriguez developed with his family is in many ways similar to the strain that Jenny, the protagonist in the film An Education begins to develop with her family and teachers.
However, unlike Rodriguez, who’s familial strain developed due to his growing belief in the ideals of western education, Jenny’s separation from her family developed due to her courageous desire to explore knowledge beyond the confines of the classroom, something not many teenage girls dared to do in the extremely prim and proper society of 1961 Twickenham (the setting of the film).
As a working class immigrant, Rodriguez faced an uphill battle in accepting the ideals of western education as they were in stark contrast to the principles and values that were respected within his household. As Rodriguez says “Good schooling requires that any student alter early childhood habits. But the working class child is usually least prepared for change, he goes home and sees in his parents a way of life not only different but starkly opposed to that of the classroom. ” (Rodriguez 517)
Furthermore, as a student group, immigrants such as Rodriguez face perhaps the greatest difficulty in adapting to the ideals of western education due to this large disconnection in principles between the ideals of western education and the ideals of their parents, which in Rodriguez’s case can be observed when writes of his fathers view on higher education – “He (my father) despised the trivialization of higher education, the inflated grades and cheapened diplomas, the half education that so often passed as mass education in my generation. (Rodriguez 522) Jenny on the other hand represents a fairly unique student group of her time (1960’s suburban Britain) – that of the free thinking young girl.
Over the course of attaining near perfect grades in order to gain acceptance at Oxford University, Jenny loses sight of the purpose education when she meets street smart con artist David, who in his own words ” [I] studied at what they call the university of life and did not get a very good degree. (David Goldman , An Education) Drawn into Davids world of listening to French opera and dining at the most exquisite restaurants, Jenny leaves her education behind in pursuit of a life to which, as she later realizes “there are no shortcuts. ” (Jenny, An Education). While watching David live the life she so desperately wants to lead, Jenny (who at the start of the film epitomized the definition of a female counterpart to Hoggarts ‘scholarship boy’) struggles to grasp the importance of education which she reveals in a heated and emotional argument with her head mistress by saying “It’s not enough to educate us anymore Ms. Walters.
You’ve got to tell us why you’re doing it. ” (Jenny, An Education). Today, there are a plethora of different educational systems worldwide, each functional in a different part of the globe. Most of these educational systems still largely rely on the methods mentioned under Freire’s ‘banking’ concept of education by which teachers instruct their students to memorize information from a variety text books in order to attain scholarly knowledge. The Indian I. C. S. E system of education under which I was ‘educated’ for the first 16 years of my life is a system of schooling that can be very much categorized as a ‘banking’ system.
Under such a system, tests and examinations serve as the the only measures of intelligence and important skills such as creative writing and public speaking go unhoned. At the age of 16, I transferred to an international school where all of a sudden great importance was placed on essay writing, classroom debates and more importantly on understanding the material that I had attempted to memorize over the past 16 years. Such a system falls under what Freire calls the ‘problem posing’ system of education, a system of education that he passionately promotes.
Having studied under educational systems at both end of the spectrum my opinion of education systems goes hand in hand with my experiences while studying under each method of schooling. While I certainly appreciated the freedom of thought and creativity that the international (problem posing) system promotes, I also grew to understand the necessity of certain aspects of the ‘banking’ system such as the sense of discipline that the system instils within its pupils due to its rigid and inflexible manner of education. This is something that Jenny is unfortunately forced to learn the hardest way possible.
I therefore believe, that while the problem posing method serves as a more accurate method of higher education in terms of preparing students for life outside the classroom, the banking method serves as a means of instilling a sense of discipline as well as a standardized level of knowledge amongst students worldwide (this is what allows Jenny to revert back to her studies after her heartbreak) and therefore a balance between both systems is necessary to completely educate students as well as prepare them for what we call ‘real world life’.