Wikipedia defines authoritarianism as a form of government that is described by strong central power and limited political freedom. According to Freire, in authoritarian pedagogy, teaching was to deposits of information into the minds of the learners, which is similar to deposit money in a bank account or “banking education” and the identity of learners was not taken into account. The situation of learners and teachers is relatively fixed. Power is held by the teachers. The role of learners is to learn what is taught, memorize the information, and can produce the same information on exams. There is little room for deviation or questioning. This model of education places learners into a passive position and the learning process depends upon the teachers. The interests of students as well as the meaning of given information are negligible in authoritarian pedagogy. I read somewhere a nice comparison that learners in authoritarian pedagogy are seen as a blank paper to be written on rather than a book written in invisible ink that just needs the right light shone onto.
Freire argued that the goal of authoritarian pedagogy is to condition learners to accept the cultural, social, political status quo of the dominant culture, to view the practices and behaviors of the dominant groups as complete, whole, and correct, which prevent learners from knowing the world and seeing it as something which can be changed. Therefore, it limits the liberation and freedom of the oppressed.
In my own experiences, I can name some examples of an authoritarian education model. Students from every single school from remote areas to big cities are required to use one set of course books, whose content is pre-prescribed by the ministry of education. There is a fixed schedule (including which class to take, when to take it, how many hours per week) that the ministry of education has designed for students from elementary to colleges. Every student follows the same schedule despite their interests. Teachers often ask students to perform in certain ways (using method A for problem A, do not use method B, even the results are the same) and they might get angry if students do not follow their directions. Grades and punishments are announced publicly not only in schools but also in the students’ living community. When I was a kid, my teachers were my worse fear than my mom.
Hello Hanh! I really enjoyed you blog and how you have the reader a detailed straight to the point of authoritarian pedagogy. You hit the key words which are not providing learners with the ability to change perspective of the dominant culture
Hanh, your comparison of authoritarian education as writing on a blank page and Freirean education rather as bringing to light already existing writing is really nice.
It’s interesting the national curriculum you wrote about in Vietnam. In the US at the, I believe, primary and secondary level they have implemented the “common core” which is meant to be a standardized curriculum used throughout the country and many critiques I’ve seen highlight the difficulty/problematic nature of trying to get all teachers to teach in one way and all students to learn in one way. It seems certainly closer to authoritarian than liberatory.
I like the sentence “I read somewhere a nice comparison that learners in authoritarian pedagogy are seen as a blank paper to be written on rather than a book written in invisible ink that just needs the right light shone onto.” Every student should be treated as an independent person who has own background, character, and thoughts to the world. Their thoughts and ideas to a certain problem should be listened and respected.
“Students from every single school from remote areas to big cities are required to use one set of course books, whose content is pre-prescribed by the ministry of education. There is a fixed schedule (including which class to take, when to take it, how many hours per week) that the ministry of education has designed for students from elementary to colleges. Every student follows the same schedule despite their interests.” Once again, your post brings me back to my own days as a student, and to what is unfortunately still the way we do things back home. “Electives” are a funny thing, because, hey, there is only one elective course offered in the semester. We could not even add or drop courses as we please. It was an interesting way to learn, and coming here, it was like I was opened to a world of possibilities that I did not know existed. Thank you for sharing!
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