Web conferencing: Zooming in the death of teachers and teaching as a profession

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By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*

In search of profit, the growth of managerialism and marketisation of education crippled the abilities of teachers and destroyed institutions of learning all over the world. The managerialist revolution in education is designed to transform education as a commodity for sale by privatisation. The processes of commodification and privatisation of education is central to the principles of market in education for profit.

Educational institutions are becoming certificate selling supermarkets, which treat students as cash cows and teachers as salesperson.  The introduction of league tables and rankings based on metric driven ‘evaluation of teaching, learning, student satisfaction, and research impact’ promotes the culture of Taylorism, to implement values of efficiency, productivity, and output, which destroys the critical and creative space within teaching and learning.

Management-led teaching and learning gives a false sense of democratic space with the idea of peer review culture, where control is exercised in such a way that it looks as if it is a means of professional growth and development for one’s own good. It degrades the moral foundations of teaching and learning as a profession for public good.

Educational environment is further destroyed by managerial culture of command, communication, and control system in which teaching is managed by people who never taught in their life and research is managed by people without any form exposer to research. Such a system creates an incompetent, unethical, unprofessional managerial class in education sector that eats away the soul of education.

These incompetent tick box managers are given power to mismanage the place by which they can create their own workload by organising constant useless meetings. These managerial classes pretend with confidence as if they know the issues of teaching and research. These manager’s Shakespearean acting skills in the meetings can seriously put professional actors in doubt.

The rhetoric, diction and language of the managers sounds as if they care of students and staffs. In reality, they only care about their salary seeking positions and promotions. They run public funded educational institutions like their own family firms.

The growth of managerial parasites in education destroys the collective culture of knowledge, where teaching is a learning process and learning is a process to produce knowledge and skills. Teachers and students learn from each other without thinking about essentialist and functional approach of the managers, and their workload model for staffs, and contact hours for students.

Such a profound negative transition in education sector is not only a challenge for students and staffs but also a threat to education itself. It has enormous negative impacts on women, working classes, LGBTQ, and ethnic minorities.  It is becoming an alienating experience for students and staffs working within marketised education sector.

The pestilence of coronavirus spread gives breathing space to managers by shifting the focus from the perils of managerialism and failures of marketisation of education to question of sustainability of market led educational institutions. Instead of addressing the long-standing issues within education sector, the managerial elites find instant solution by offering massive online courses.

It changes the very foundation of teaching and learning in a classroom environment. Online classes in the Zoom, Microsoft Team, BlueBotton and other web conferencing applications can never replace classroom teaching. It only further accelerates existing problems of education sector.

The classroom challenges shape teachers and teaching as a profession. The distinctive pleasure of teaching in a classroom comes from the students who shape the art of teaching. It takes long time to internalise teaching skills and develop as a teacher in the laboratory of classrooms. Every class adds new experiences both for the students and teachers. The online platforms can never recreate the teaching and learning environment that a classroom offers. The interactive and participatory pedagogy of teaching and learning dies its natural death in online platforms where teachers look at students as dots in computer screen. The classroom offers limitless possibilities to engage with students, their excitements and their boredoms.

So, online teaching and learning is not only short-sighted but also reductionist that destroys the organic space between a teacher and students. In this way, COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a severe crisis within the traditional pedagogy of teaching and learning.

Teachers and students are not zombies. The zooming online is a medium of interactions, and not a teaching and learning method. Any attempt to replace classrooms with online platforms destroy the very idea of teaching and learning. Technology and virtual leaning environment enhance the abilities of a teacher and student. It cannot replace a teacher.

The etiquettes of classroom teaching instil qualities like determination, focus, peer interactions, intercultural communication skills, debating abilities, public speaking and engagement skills via eye gaze. These are invaluable skills for the students and teachers. These set of important skills are more valuable in life than curriculum driven skills and certificates. The managerial class is drunk with the bad cocktail of ignorance and arrogance so much, that they failed to understand the importance of these skills.

The managerial stubbornness of market logic in education and its failures are under the carpet of the pestilence infused crisis management. It is disempowering for both students and teachers, and a few academic leaders. In one hand, this crisis is an opportunity for managerial class to hide their failures.

In other hand, the COVID-19 pandemic is also exposing the limits of marketisation of education. It is revealing the thoughtless and distorted managerial response to crisis. It is an opportunity for students and teachers to refuse the culture of business as usual in post pandemic education sector. It is not the individualised, selfish and brutish managerialism but the struggle for alternatives, that comes from collective experiences and understandings.

The survival of teachers and teaching as a profession depends on how we steer the struggle for alternatives within and outside the education sector. It can offer a better tomorrow for critical and creative space for teaching and learning in a post pandemic world if we fight against the twin evils of managerialism and marketisation of education. It is important to remember that education is not merely essential for employment but a tool of emancipation.

*Coventry University, UK

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