The Role of the Education System in Inhibiting Freedom Among Students in Australia

Objective

Scholars and philosophers like Paulo Freire highlight the prevalence of banking education in today’s curriculum. The following report aims to illustrate how banking education has been used in Australia as a tool of oppression and domination for the past few years. A critical analysis will reveal the way teaching, at all levels of education, is used by bank-clerk educators to domesticate learners and to prevent “biophily” development in order to secure their interests. While Australia acts as the primary point of reference for the selected educational issue in this report, the information can also be replicated in other nations to reflect the role of the current education system in inhibiting freedom among students, especially in higher learning institutions.

Introduction

Teachers play a pivotal role in the overall development of learners. They act as instruments of the education system that instill knowledge, skills, and values into the young generation. Hence, facilitators are expected to have “a strong foundation of initial teacher education and to view themselves as learners in their own practice” (Livingston, 2016, p. 1). The solidarity between tutors and learners is essential for the effective intellectual growth of the latter. However, teachers in Australia, well-intentioned and knowingly bank-clerk educators, have used the existing form of education as a tool of domination and oppression by making students conform to their ideals and limiting their ability to think critically.

The above teaching approach qualifies as banking education because it embodies some unique features of the training strategy. Knowledge under the system “is a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable, upon those whom they consider to know nothing” (Freire, 1996, p. 72). To the scholar, education in this context is used to portray domination since instructors present themselves as the complete opposite of students and a social apparatus configuring a well-organized and just society (Freire, 1996). Regrettably, the learner unknowingly assumes the role of the marginalized, who is required to conform to the guidelines of his oppressor. As a result, the education process is adversely affected because learners fail to question the ideologies of the teachers, thus inhibiting their ability to analyze real-life situations critically.

The fact that education in Australia is compulsory for some ages implies that it can easily be used as an instrument of domination by those in charge of disseminating knowledge and skills. Based on the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), school-based learning is mandatory for children between the ages of six and sixteen years (“Australia,” n.d). Normally, this would be a stage of development in teenagers characterized by imagination, creativity, and critical thinking (Vygotsky, 2004). Therefore, teachers are expected to nurture rationality in students and, to a greater extent, promote autonomy to encourage learners to reflect on some issues on their own. Unfortunately, tutors in numerous learning institutions, including those in Australia, perceive the interdisciplinary teaching approach as uncomfortable and choose to practice narrative education and the sonority of words where students learn through memorizing rather than critiquing the meaning of each lesson. One of the reasons teachers may prefer this form of teaching is because they can easily retain their supremacy over the students by compelling them to conform to their ideals.

Analysis

The role of educational institutions, especially in higher education, surpasses the mere deposition of knowledge among students. As described by Jones, Selby, and Sterling (2010), “universities must function as places of research and learning for sustainable development” (p. 2). The statement implies that learning should involve the active participation of both teachers and students. United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) termed this teaching approach interdisciplinary, holistic, multi-method, and participatory, founded on critical thinking and problem-solving (Jones et al., 2010). Hence, some Australian institutions signed The Talloires Declaration, a mark of commitment to sustainable education by adopting interdisciplinary strategies in the curriculum.

In Australia, the concept of “interdisciplinary” education has been modified to safeguard the tutors’ academic freedom. The aspect reflects global occurrences in the 20th century that negated neoliberalism, a concept described by Cahill (2014) as conserving the people’s freedom by the government and society. An example of freedom sculpted according to the oppressor’s ideology is the situation in Iraq and the United States. Harvey (2005) mentions that the liberty conferred to Iraq during the war was restricted to areas that would help the United States protect its interest in the territory. Unsurprisingly, the then head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in the country, Paul Bremer, asserted that Iraqis have the freedom to own and control their businesses. Yet, the labor market was strictly regulated by the United States (Harvey, 2005). Similarly, the commitment of Australian facilities to promote freedom in education only applies to the extent that teachers can subordinate the students by justifying their existence.

Undeniably, elements of oppression exist in the Australian education curriculum. An analysis of a study conducted in one of the Australian high schools reveals how banking education dichotomizes the activities of the teacher and students, thus enabling the facilitators to regard themselves as “the other” in the learning context. For example, during the ethnographic research, one of the tutors mentioned that 10% of the scholars in the facility were inferior, while 30% were lazy. In addition, a senior high school student claimed he was “too dumb to go to the university” (Mclnerney, 2009, p. 29). The findings captured during the study reflect Freirean’s perspective of the pedagogy of the oppressed.

One of the features of oppression that can be drawn from the above example is the hypertrophied role of the instructor. Freire (1996) describes the attitude that the teacher knows everything while the students know nothing as mirrors of an oppressive society. The aspect is reflected in the selected case scenario, whereby the tutor regards some students as bums and lazy. Assuming the role of the oppressor, the professors consider themselves the pathology of a healthy education system and a social action apparatus of configuring competence and hard work among the apprentices (Freire, 1996). While such a characteristic is derived from a small sample of the Australian facilities, it applies to multiple institutions in the country whose curriculums are structured to change the learners’ consciousness rather than help them overcome situations that inhibit their proficiency. Contrary to integrating learners in their pattern of a healthy society, educators should focus on nurturing critical thinking so that students can easily reflect on reality and rationally choose fields of education that connect with their lives.

Additionally, the above scenario portrays the fundamental relationship between the oppressors and the oppressed, often referred to as “prescription.” Freire (1996) defines prescription as the act of “transforming the consciousness of the person prescribed to, into one that conforms to the prescriber’s consciousness” (p. 47). Regrettably, students in Australian learning institutions also indulge in their oppression by proclaiming the mentality of their oppressors. For instance, when one of the students declared that he was too dumb to go to university, he ascertained that the teachers’ view of incompetent learners was accurate. Similar aspects are portrayed in Australia’s national curriculum, which provides a standardized learning experience for all students regardless of their residence and school system (Australian Government Department of Education, 2019). Though indirectly, Australia’s learners prescribe content that individuals in authority believe is necessary for their growth and development.

Conclusion

Banking education remains a prevalent instrument of oppression and domination in Australia. Australia’s education system promotes compulsory school-based learning for children between the ages of six to sixteen years, making it an ideal dictatorial tool. Educators utilize the nature of the system to justify their status as more knowledgeable in society. The hypertrophied role of the tutors, students’ prescription to the educator’s mentality, and the Australian national curriculum are some of the few examples of oppression and domination. While philosophers argue that the step to curb repression should be initiated by the oppressed, education-based domination would require an inverse approach. Tutors should come forth to endorse a participatory and interdisciplinary method of teaching. As proposed by Freire, banking education should be replaced with problem-poised schooling. If Australia and other countries choose the latter, they would be well-positioned to eradicate fatalistic perceptions about the situation among students, minimize the educational interests of the oppressors, and promote a humanist and liberating praxis in education.

 

References

Australia. (N.d). Australian education system. Retrieved from https://www.studyinaustralia.gov.au/english/australian-education/education-system

Australian Government Department of Education. (2019). Australian curriculum. Retrieved from https://www.education.gov.au/australian-curriculum-0

Cahill, D. (2014). The end of Laissez-Faire? On the durability of embedded neoliberalism. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Freire, P. (1996). Pedagogy of the oppressed. London: Penguin Books.

Harvey, D. (2005). A brief history of Neoliberalism. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Jones, P., Selby, D., & Sterling, S. (2010). Sustainability education: Perspectives and practice across higher education. London: Earthscan.

Livingston, K. (2016). Teacher education’s role in educational change. European Journal of Teacher Education, 39(1), 1-4.

Mclnerney, P. (2008). Toward a critical pedagogy of engagement for alienated youth: Insights from Freire and school-based research. Critical Studies in Education, 50(1), 23-35.

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