The Banking Concept of
by Paulo Freire
This excerpt consists of Chapter 2 from
PEDAGOGY OF THE OPPRESSED by
Paulo Freire. New York: Continuum
A careful analysis of the teacher-student relationship at
any level, inside or outside the school, reveals its
fundamentally narrative character. This relationship
involves a narrating Subject (the teacher) and patient
listening objects (the students). The contents, whether
values or empirical dimensions of reality, tend in the
process of being narrated to become lifeless and petrified.
Education is suffering from narration sickness.
The teacher talks about reality as if it were motionless,
static, compartmentalized, and predictable. Or else he
expounds on a topic completely alien to the existential
experience of the students. His task is to "fill" the students
with the contents of his narration -- contents which are
detached from reality, disconnected from the totality that
engendered them and could give them significance.
Words are emptied of their concreteness and become a
hollow, alienated, and alienating verbosity.
The outstanding characteristic of this narrative
education, then, is the sonority of words, not their
transforming power. "Four times four is sixteen; the
capital of Para is Belem." The student records, memorizes,
and repeats these phrases without perceiving what four
times four really means, or realizing the true significance
of "capital" in the affirmation "the capital of Para is
Belem," that is, what Belem means for Para and what Para
means for Brazil.
Narration (with the teacher as narrator) leads the
students to memorize mechanically the narrated account.
turns them into
"receptacles" to be "filled" by the teachers. The more
completely she fills the receptacles, the better a teachers
she is. The more meekly the
themselves to be filled, the better students they are.
Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which
the students are the depositories and the teacher is the
depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues
communiques and makes deposits which the students
patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. This is the
"banking' concept of education, in which the scope of
action allowed to the students extends only as far as
receiving, filing, and storing the deposits. They do, it is
true, have the opportunity to become collectors or
cataloguers of the things they store. But in the last
analysis, it is the people themselves who are filed away
through the lack of creativity, transformation, and
knowledge in this (at best) misguided system. For apart
from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot be
truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention
continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the
world, with the world, and with each other.
In the banking concept of education, knowledge is a