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 managerial revolution in education is designed to transform education as a commodity for sale by privatisation. The processes of commodification and privatisation of education are central to the principles of the market when it comes to 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 give a false sense of democratic space along 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 the public good.
The educational environment is further destroyed by the 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 of exposure to research. Such a system creates an incompetent, unethical, unprofessional managerial class in the educational sector that eats away the soul of learning itself. These incompetent tick-box managers are given the power to mismanage the place by which they can create their own workload by organising constant useless meetings. This managerial class pretends with confidence as if they know the issues of teaching and research. The manager’s Shakespearean acting skills in the meetings can seriously put professional actors in doubt. Their rhetoric, diction and language sound as if they care about the students and staff. But 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 pedagogy, 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, their workload model for staff, and contact hours for students. Such a profound negative transition in the sector is not only a challenge for students and employees but also a threat to education itself. It has enormous negative impacts on women, working classes, LGBTQ, and ethnic minorities. It is also becoming an alienating experience for students and staff working within the market model of the 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 the question of sustainability of market-led educational institutions. Instead of addressing the long-standing issues within the education sector, the managerial elites find an 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 the existing problems of the education sector.
The classroom challenges shape teachers and teaching as a profession. The distinctive pleasure of the profession comes from the students in the classrooms 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 the 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; it destroys the organic space between teachers and their 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 interaction, 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 learning 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 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, teachers and few academic leaders. On one hand, this crisis is an opportunity for the managerial class to hide their failures. On the 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 a crisis. It is an opportunity for students and teachers to refuse the culture of business as usual in the 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.
(The author is a Senior Lecturer of Business Strategy at Coventry University, UK. Views expressed are personal.)