Luis Bonilla-Molina

Traducción Celina Castro Jaimes

1. A brief balance

Since 2015 we have been denouncing the possibility of a Global Pedagogical Blackout (GPA) that was nothing more than the abrupt step to virtuality while  school systems of the different countries of the world were not prepared for it. Many ministries of education had ignored the impact that acceleration of innovation in school systems would have in the short term, and this omission, we denounced, would favor the arrival of new and terrible forms of privatization and educational exclusion.

Despite the announcements of the large known technology corporations made between 2011 and 2019, regarding millionaire investments in technological proposals for education, the vast majority of ministries of education did not advance in the construction of their own virtual platforms, or content repositories of digital independent multimedia, even less in pedagogical training schools in the virtual and digital world. In some cases, text repositories were built, made up of books that were scanned and this was intended to be presented as the axis of the digital world in the new stage.

The arrival of the first stage of the announced Global Pedagogical Blackout  was set by the COVID-19 pandemic and the preventive quarantine that it generated, with the consequent closure of millions of schools. This stage was focused on:

 • Being literate in the consumption of virtual platforms generated by large technology corporations. It did not matter that students, teachers and families did not know the epistemologies of these platforms, the underlying theme was that they learned to use them quickly under the pretext of contingency. Accustoming  our students to consume virtual canned goods;

• Building the social imaginary where technology came by force and through the back door to educational institutions and present this situation as evidence of the backwardness of face-to-face education. Likewise, show teachers as personnel who became literate in the use of virtual platforms during the pandemic because they were not previously qualified for it. This situation turned into global public policy which seems to be part of an offensive to be sustained in the near future, to show teachers as outdated;

•highlighting the existing epistemic gap in the teaching-learning processes, which has a direct impact on the «development of capacities for school responses» to the training needs of the 4.0 production mode;

• Opening doors to the construction of world hegemony on the possibility of progressively moving towards a model of home schooling. Something that at this stage is possible only for the bourgeoisie and  upper middle class children;

• Imposing the paradigm of «educating society» through which the Nation States neglect to guarantee the minimum conditions for the development of the teaching-learning processes and transfer to  citizens, to the «society», central responsibilities to the fulfillment of the universal human right to education:

• New forms of educational privatization (given the previous facts described above)  concealed with the notion of education as a common good, where “ordinary citizens” had to bear the costs of the technological gap, as it was shown during the pandemic.

• Generating school stratification and the break with the equalizing possibilities of school. Stratification was a phenomenon that occurred in a forced way betweeen 1) those who had access to the Internet, computers and a family or teachers who accompanied them in the teaching-learning processes at home, 2) those who only had access to computers and the Internet, but the lack of Support in the transition from face-to-face to virtuality had a significant impact on learning achievements, 3) those who could not maintain a virtual pedagogical link and occasionally did so through booklets and / or printed materials, as well as intermittent teaching support. This sector of the student population began to question their possibilities to continue studying in the medium and long term, 4) those who did not have any pedagogical link and were excluded from the school system.

In this way, the “new” would disembark not only with less resistance but also with the self-perception -on the part of low-income social sectors- regarding a supposed inability to continue studying due to the impossibility of accessing connectivity, connection equipment, virtual platforms and digital content;

• Unleashing thunders of the looming technological storm with the intention of deepening pedagogical uncertainty among education workers.

1. Deepening the divestment of teachers’ salaries. During the pandemic, the education workers had to double their working hours, without this being accompanied by the appropriate salary adjustments. In addition to this, teachers assumed on their own the costs of internet connection, payment of subscriptions to platforms and / or purchase or improvement of connection equipment. This threatens to become a permanent practice with wage cuts  and precarious working conditions for all personnel working in the education area.

Once these goals have been achieved, the balance is terrifying. The empirical data and information provided by teachers’ unions indicate that in Latin America and the Caribbean, between 30 and 50% (according to each national case) are excluded from the possibility of continuously sustaining the pedagogical link through virtual means; this was mainly due to the poor internet connection and unequal access to connection equipment (computers, tablets, cell phones). Some official data that is just beginning to be known confirm this global pedagogical drama and show that a significant percentage of the student population could not maintain any pedagogical link .

The other percentage was «trained» in digital and virtual consumption, in the reproduction of knowledge in cognitive capitalism. Few experiences showing resistance in the virtual world appeared given the precarious ability to enter this field from critical theories, something that we will address in another article.

 2. Return to Presentiality without an in-depth debate about the situation of Education in         Pandemic time.

It is worrisome that despite the elements described in the succinct balance of what happened in the educational field between March 2020 and November 2021, the return to presentiality in classrooms has been taking place as an administrative issue and biosafety measures.

Not only the overwhelming silence – together with the complicit  offensive of cognitive capitalism – of many ministries of education  have been suspicious, but the attitude of looking the other way from important sectors of the academy, teacher training centers and even many unions and syndicates’ teachers. Each one has returned to his own practice practically turning a blind eye from the situation described in the balance sheet, as if with that attitude the continuity of the technological offensive of neoliberalism against education was conjured.

The right to education is being seriously threatened with new forms of privatization and exclusion. UNICEF (2021) has just published a study which indicates that more than 200 million children have been left without continuity of the pedagogical link in 37 countries in the framework of the pandemic. I do not want to imagine the data if we analyze all nations of the world. A serious, thorough debate is urgently needed on this matter.

The educational debates of the present must free themselves from much of the archetypes of the past and be able to situate themselves in the capital-labor contradiction of the present and its repercussions on school systems and educational agendas. For this reason, it is worrying that many of the books on education that we have seen published in the last two years are texts that analyze what happened in the last two decades of the 20th century or the first two decades of the 21st century with paradigms of the first two industrial revolutions, narratives which do not dare to enter the chaotic present of the third decade of the 21st century in the midst of the transition to the fourth industrial revolution.

The smokescreen with which they try to hide the new gradual forms of destruction of the face-to-face public school, is expressed in the diatribes regarding whether or not there are biosafety measures for the face-to-face return to the classrooms. Certainly this is an important issue, decisive to guarantee the right to life, but the return to  classroom after months of quarantine is preceded by the brutal exclusion described in this text, by a technological storm, and uncertainty about the future of teacher training. and the very profession of teachers and professors. Trying  to ignore these issues and not opening up spaces for debates on them , both due to the lack of accurate answers and resistance to change, it is something that is absolutely functional to the logic of capital.

Recently, the 2021 Davos Forum identified 2030 as the convergence date for accelerating innovation and obsolescence of existing school models, as well as the expiration of the graduation profiles  and funeral of many professions. This announcement of an educational «crash» should have caused a reaction to the critical educational intelligentsia, the classist teacher unions, the student body of the teacher training centers, but given the lack of answers on the necessary changes to face the technological storm and the announced bursting of the educational bubble, what prevailed was a thunderous silence in the face of a situation that at another historical moment would have generated organized resistance on a global scale.

it is urgent and necessary  to do a global debate on critical pedagogies, popular educations, classist teacher unions, student and family associations in order to build in a participatory way a current path of transformation from the perspective of liberating education, which allows not only to confront but creatively navigating amid the looming technological storm which is threatening face-to-face school systems.

• 3. The technological storm will not stop

In the capitalist world system, profit determine the orientation of public policies. Even the most «noble» government decision contains important areas of demand and supply, consumption and profit, in this case it is no different. During 2020, the year of globalization of the pandemic and the beginning of the quarantine, the global economy slowed down with a fall of 4.5 trillion dollars in global GDP; While this was happening, the profits of the best known technology corporations (Alphabet, Microsoft, Zoom, Facebook, Netflix, Samsung, Amazon, Cisco Systems, Tencent, Apple, Alibaba) reached 3.2 trillion dollars, that is, an amount almost equivalent  to the fall in global GDP. These gains were largely due to requirements from school systems, universities, research centers, families, students and teachers. This was accompanied by the signing of agreements by these technology corporations with many of the ministries of education in Latin America in order to provide advice, support and supplies necessary for the educational landing route of the fourth industrial revolution in the post-pandemic.

With such a significant profit margin, the technology sector has become one of the most dynamic in the world economy. Therefore, in the «restart of the world economy» the educational agenda of the technology sector will play a central role, associated with:

1. The formation of private virtual educational platforms. These virtual platforms, for the most part, are designed for the reproductive education model, for alienation through the competence model. They are structured around taxonomies such as Bloom’s, which leave very little room for the development of alternative projects;

• Strengthening the global educational cloud architecture, with private access keys at different levels of it. New forms of privatization and segmentation of access to knowledge are multiplied according to what can be paid depending on social origin or income level;

• The promotion of the home education model as a modality that aspires to expand every day, progressively decreasing to levels of «population marginalized from the acceleration of innovation» the role of the face-to-face public school. In this sense, national legislations of «home school» or home education are promoted;

• The curricularisation of pedagogy acts as a dynamics of detachment of the educational fact;

• There is a transfer of many of the tasks of cultural reproduction that educational institutions fulfilled, to the cultural industrial complex. Education for consumption, for sociability in the bourgeois political system, teaching for political participation, aesthetic education, moral and ethical education, are transferred from face-to-face classrooms to social networks, cinema, video games, video clips, the music industry, literature, the graphic novel, the augmented virtual reality. The metaverse emerges as the biggest box of dummies that can exist and as a space for deep alienation in times of cognitive capitalism;

•The social imaginary of the face-to-face school is built as a place stuck in the past, incapable of accompanying scientific-technological innovation, incapable of providing the democratization of knowledge required by the mode of production of the fourth industrial revolution and to  foresee the inmediate future . Vocational training is outdated and inefficient;

• The face-to-face school / university is harassed through proposals for digital self-learning or assisted learning from home such as; E-learning 2.0 (blogs, wikis, social networks, repositories), Mobile Learning (mobile devices with connection), Rapid Learning (short multimedia content and synthesis of knowledge), Blended Learning (E-Learning 2.0 plus specially bespoke presence), Live Learning (asynchronous training + synchronous training), Mooc Online (free access online courses), Gamification (games and semi-ludic applications) Learning Analytics (analysis of student learning metadata + context). This siege, in the transition, has a concrete expression in the learning problems of the students under the frontal model of virtual teaching rehearsed during the pandemic, which has made the children of the bourgeoisie, upper middle class and some layers of the bureaucracy, appeal to the model school + teacher at home, which is «showing» the benefits of an individualized education and at home. Of course,  children of the working class and those of the salaried workers ones, can hardly try this model and they are beginning to experience a hateful differentiation by social origin (class, race, ethnicity, sex) in the teaching-learning processes. Teacher training begins to  emerge for home schooling as a field of tomorrow’s  work and profession.

4. The teaching payroll at the center of the hurricane of the transition between the third and fourth industrial revolution

Achieving progress in the transition from the face-to-face public school model used during the first two industrial revolutions to school systems now in the fourth industrial revolution requires a significant investment in technological infrastructure (connection, educational cloud architecture, generation of content in digital format, platforms educational programs, teacher training for the new model, model of teaching standards + e-learning model 3.0 /4.0, among others) that threatens to be extracted from the budget sections of teacher payrolls. Therefore, it is foreseeable a sustained offensive with respect to the «teaching quality» and forms of breaking the stability in the exercise of the teaching profession in order to have the funds for payroll and transfer it to the technology corporations.

We insist that it is not enough to criticize capitalism in general or cognitive capitalism in particular, but that a broad debate is required to understand the phenomenon that is occurring, radically different from what we knew and that will surely increase in a relatively short time. The required debate is not only to diagnose but fundamentally for the construction of counter-hegemonic and alternative proposals that have to do with the present and concrete reality and not with our wishes or learnings from the past.

• 5. How is the center of cognitive capitalism envisioning the school / university in the transition between the third and fourth revolution and the emergence of new school systems?

When we analyze documents, reflections and debates of educational multilateralism, development banks, technology corporations, technological philanthropy or centers of thought and action such as Singularity University, it is possible to  imagine the educational Frankenstein that is being created.

Capital is thinking about school activity in a radically different way. Educational institutions that combine classroom presence with increasingly important teaching-learning processes at home seems to be the short-term recipe formulated by the capitalist center in the prelude to the bursting of the educational bubble. To do this, they are beginning to design virtual platforms built with Bloom’s taxonomy, of a dynamic nature, using “learning analytics” (metadata analysis + artificial intelligence) that provide students, families and teachers with individualized monitoring and in real time of the advances in the appropriation of knowledge and the development of “competences”, with remedial and reinforcement tasks for each case. These platforms contain activities in the classroom and at home (50-50% or other combinations), executed and valued through them, in an exponential development of what we see today as their lines in spaces such as classroom. Platforms that are increasingly linked to powerful digital educational clouds, with multimedia content, interactive hypertexts, where the role of the teacher is assisted by videos, tutorials, games, virtual dynamics.

The role of the face-to-face classroom aims to be a meeting space to build together, to «assemble» experiences, convergence of individual processes, where the teacher’s work becomes that of a craftsman who uses pedagogy to harmonize, enhance the emergence of novelties and give strategic direction according to a school system that tends to replace the prescribed and static curriculum with standards that interact with content that is constantly being prepared and updated.

Anyone could rightly say that this is a model for no more than 50% of the population of girls, boys, youth and adults involved in school systems. Those who think this way are right. And it is that the new global educational model that tries to implant cognitive capitalism in the fourth industrial revolution implies a rupture of the old paradigm of inclusive education

6. What to do?

The current offensive situation of capital’s offensive on face-to-face education demands forceful responses from liberating praxis and critical thinking. These responses cannot be unrelated to the historical time in which we live and must be oriented to the defense and recovery of the equalizing role of public schools. The human right to education is threatened as never before in history and defending it involves building educational proposals that combine face-to-face classes with those with access to the digital and virtual world under equal conditions for all children and young people. It is time to resist and create, not to sit on the sidewalk and  lament it.

NEXT ITEMS IN THIS SERIES:                

1. What is the epistemic gap?

2. Expressions of epistemological chaos in the field of education in the transition between the third and fourth industrial revolution

3. Curricularization of pedagogies

4. Curricular taxonomies and their impact on virtual logic

5. Notes to think about a taxonomic field of critical pedagogies and popular educations

6. From prescribed learning objectives to dynamic learning

7. Elements for the production of digital content with a critical perspective

8. Teacher training for the combination of face-to-face + virtuality + digital

9. Reacting to prevent the bursting of the educational bubble

10. Children’s experiences as sustenance of school activity without democratization of scientific and technological knowledge is another way to segregate, control and dominate populations

They do not have to be published in that order