“The ‘Banking’ Concept of Education”
A careful analysis of the teacher-student relationship at any level, in-side or outside the school, reveals its
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
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 Pará is Belém.” 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 Pará is Belém,” that is, what Belém means for Para and what Pará means for Brazil.
Narration (with the teacher as narrator) leads the students to memorize mechanically the narrated content. Worse yet,
it turns them into “containers,” into “receptacles” to be “filled” by the teacher. The more completely she fills the
receptacles, the better a teacher she is. The more meekly the receptacles permit themselves to be filled, the better students
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 communiqués 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 and re-
invention, through the restless, impatient, 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 gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable