Luis Bonilla-Molina

Traducción Celina Castro Jaimes


We are living a turning point for the sustainability of social conquests in general and for the right to education in particular. In this sense, and, as we have been pointed out in other texts, during the quarantine due to the covid-19 pandemic there was a brutal assault on the right to education, as many nation states did not guarantee the minimum conditions to develop the teaching- learning processes. Educational authorities remain silent about the neo privatization that occurred during the closure of schools due to preventive quarantine, since governments, in the best style of the neoliberal educating society model, transferred their responsibilities to families, students and teachers, the latter having to assume the costs of internet access, purchase of connection equipment, payment of platforms, appropriation of digital content production and virtual management. We insist on this, because this situation threatens to be sustained in the return to face-to-face and beyond in the post-pandemic, based on the announced face-to-face + virtuality educational model.

With a dose of sui generis cynicism, the educational authorities begin to talk about their concern about the school dropout of boys, girls, adolescents and university students. It was not the students who left schools, high schools and universities, but the States who abandoned them to their fate during the pandemic; without computer equipment and without internet they were pushed to the periphery of the school systems !!!

The deadlock in the debate on the matter and ostrich like action that has characterized sectors of alternative thought and the teaching profession itself, seems to be due to the problems in understanding the strategic orientation of capital in educational matters, in the transition between the third and fourth industrial revolution and its impact on the school systems agenda. The maelstrom of changes and the 180 degree turn cause disorientation and vertigo under the weight of routines and school performance that we have experienced in the last century. This gridlock has its origins in the epistemic gap.

What is the epistemic gap?

The epistemic gap is nothing other than the lack of understanding of the existing distance between what we do and what society and the mode of production demand. It is expressed in limited possibilities to become critically aware of this situation, a phenomenon derived from paradigms, archetypes, routines, narratives and imaginaries that correspond to another historical moment, to the past.

The epistemic gap is more dangerous than the technological gap, because the second is brudged with the purchase of equipment and technology, while the first demands learning processes and logical reasoning that allow us to appropriate the characteristics of  change. Getting out of the bottleneck requires a contextualized didactics of incessant change, typical of an emancipatory, liberating pedagogical proposal contextualized in the 21st century.

The greater the distance between what is happening and our understanding of the phenomenon, the greater the defensive  tendency is to deny the fact and its permanence, assigning to the evidence the status of fortuitous and unrepeatable. For example, many teachers see virtuality as a conjunctural phenomenon of pandemic quarantine and are reluctant to see in it a dynamic that will be sustained over time with varying degrees of application.

The epistemic gap generates a tremendous cognitive chaos, as teachers show numerous signs of change in a historical situation such as the current one and feel deprived of the theoretical and experiential tools to face, understand and act in the new situation.

When teachers do not get the keys to understand the new, there is a risk of forging a conservative spirit, which refuses to open up to learning for change or, worse still, there is the risk of believing that it is enough not to talk about it for the new reality dissipates.

The individual epistemic gap should be resolved through the help of educational institutions, but the current epistemic gap has organizational dimensions, that is, it encompasses the ministries of education and an important part of universities and centers for continuing teacher training.

The epistemic gap is much deeper than the paradigmatic crises described by Khun (1922-1996), because in this case, it implies rethinking the world as a whole and in the «educational community», a product of de-pedagogization, curricularization of pedagogies and in neoliberal pragmatics, there is no theoretical, ontological and shared body of beliefs or consensus regarding the application of theory and problem-solving models.

Neoliberal governments, accustomed to obeying without much thought, seem not to understand the strategic orientation of capital and its educational demands and, each administration carries out a national educational reform with brushstrokes of what the OECD WB or UNESCO say, which far from solving the problems that generate them end up anarchizing even more the educational systems.

It is important to highlight that the appeal to take into account the “local”  by  educational reforms is not necessarily the result of an assessment of the unequal and combined development of capitalism that imposes differentiated roles on the territories as a measure of equity, but rather a task of changing some things to give the feeling of doing something when it is really showing loyalty to the capitalist center. However, these educational reforms  function as patches that attack symptoms, but not problems, so they end up being initiatives without teleology as a result of the epistemic gap. The paradigm of the educational bureaucracy, of subordination of educational systems to the capitalist mode of production, is not sufficient to understand the transition of education between the third and fourth industrial revolutions. The epistemic gap is making educational bureaucracies dysfunctional for the functioning of the capitalist world system.

The structure of educational institutions is that of a Newtonian machine; therefore, the illusion arises that the paradigm shift is a matter of curricular, didactic, evaluative reforms (parts, pieces of the machine), or the creation of new departments (complementary pieces). This is an epistemological castration that prevents us thinking – much less setting in motion – the organization, careers and internal dynamics in a radically different way from the existing routines and protocols. This limitation to think the new in its concrete organizational expressions is often interpreted as outdatedness. Specific organizational structures are often interpreted as outdated. But the attempts to update are made by approaching the institutionality as if it were a machine and the proposals for change end up being adjustments or replacement of the rusted pieces. Recent waves of educational and university reforms have been just that, with disappointing results that end up fostering educational immobility and a conservative pedagogical spirit.

The resistance to change derived from the epistemic gap is evidence of serious limitations in understanding the horizon, which, to top it all, is in permanent motion. The reflex response resulting from the epistemic gap is similar to the cognitive solution that occurs  when the front glass of the car shatters and we  end up seeing reality through the rear-view mirror.

The epistemic gap has territorial dimensions. The epistemic gap in the center of the capitalist world system is not the same as in its peripheries. The citizens of the capitalist center have greater possibilities of seeing the concrete manifestations of the horizon of the epistemic gap, where the inhabitants of the capitalist periphery only observe diffuse mists. For an inhabitant of Munich, Amsterdam or Paris, virtuality is closer to a daily life where the internet is accessible,  electrification is stable, access to computer equipment relatively easy, where video games are part of the landscape, while in Ocosingo ( Mexico), Rubio (Venezuela) or Carcasí (Colombia) their most widespread approach is through the contents of movies and television newscasts due to connectivity and equipment limitations.

That is, the epistemic gap has differentiated expressions according to the unequal and combined development of capitalism, however, as  Wallerstein stated, the world system does not leave a  territory without  spreading out  its capitalist’s dynamics. In other words, the acceleration of innovation and the fourth industrial revolution will reach all corners of the planet in the short and medium term, either by modifying people’s reality or by excluding them.

Something similar happens in the countries with respect to the city and the countryside, the metropolises and ancestral territories. In Latin America the urban sector concentrates the greatest number of possibilities of access to services while in the rural world precariousness becomes a sign of identity. It is not the same to talk about the digital world in the capitals of the countries as it is in the countryside. The proximity and the possibilities of understanding the new phenomena of communication, education, consumption, participation and sociability is greater in urban centers than in rural communities. This can generate the false perception that what is  new is not proper  to the countryside, but rather that it is a city issue.

The epistemic gap can generate the imaginary hope in people living in the capitalist periphery that if we become oysters enclosed in the shell, then, we will become impervious to the logic of the market in the fourth industrial revolution. But the reality is that the oyster survives because it protects «its own» inside the shell, but does not lose contact with external reality. A false oyster behavior resides in opposing ancestral knowledge and scientific-technological development, when the main idea is to build a territorial dialectic that allows establishing the benefits and limits of one and the other.

The epistemic gap pretends to be presented as a generational issue. It is a kind of impulse to escape covered in hopeful narratives, based on the assumption that the youngest will find the answers that are elusive to those born before the nineties of the twentieth century. Theorists such as Prensky with their ideas about digital natives and digital migrants feed this illusion that sediments the epistemic gap. As we have pointed out, it is not a matter of ages, but of a Freirean reading of reality based on specifying the impact on the capitalist mode of production, of the interstices and turns that industrial revolutions impose and how these interstices mark a new educational agenda. If adults and young people fail to understand the impact of the third and fourth industrial revolutions on the capitalist world system and what this implies for education and school systems, the epistemic gap remains.

The epistemic gap has a concrete expression in the popular field, derived from the precarious understanding of the dialectical relationship between the use of alternative technologies and the acceleration of scientific-technological innovation. The alternative is not stranger to the impact of the exponential acceleration of innovation in its imaginaries, narratives and uses. Alternative technologies are not a petroglyph in a museum, but rather, they maintain a symbolic interaction between past and present, tradition and innovation. The immobility of alternative technologies, the refusal to interact with the new without yielding to its paradigmatic horizon, the failure to think critically about the novelty, evaluating its relationships with reality and contexts, shows the epistemic gap. Perhaps the unusual speed of the emerging, the growing volume of expressions of the radically new, contributes to this.

The epistemic gap facilitates digital mining and the extractivism of human identities. In the last two years we have seen the unusual penetration of mobile devices in not only urban communities, but also rural ones. The naive use of this equipment facilitates the extractivism of personal information and data mining. The prospective of avatars in the virtual world is being built from this mining, a process that threatens the identity of populations that approach technology with an epistemic gap.

The epistemic gap is structurally more consolidated in men than in women, due to the reproductive role of patriarchy in capitalist society. Patriarchy implies a conservative approach to social relations, one of them with emerging science and technology, especially the innovations of the transition to the fourth industrial revolution that challenges societal routines and performance. For this reason, while men resist the impact of the new from incredulity and satire, women approach this situation from a practical way,considering the possibilities and their impact on daily life. Therefore, feminism is a possibility to solve the epistemic gap by overcoming technophobia and technophilia.

The epistemic gap enables new expressions of the ecological footprint, since it does not allow us to understand the shift in the mode of production towards new energy sources, beyond oil, gas and coal. This allows the environmental crisis to continue with unknown variants of ecological impact. The epistemic gap limits the possibilities of anti-capitalist responses to a model of overproduction of goods that wants to appear as ecological by changing energy sources, regardless of whether the new ones cause other environmental impacts.

The racialization of the epistemic gap is most evident in the global south, where the precarious situations of material life  make the transition between the third and fourth industrial revolutions seem as a foreign issue. In contrast, the                                                                      white individual of the imperialist north is shown as the civilized one capable of understanding the developments and the teleological horizon of the acceleration of innovation.

All these expressions of the epistemic gap facilitate the beginning of the global reset with impunity. In mid-2020 Schwab and Millaret presented the master lines of this process in the book Covid-19 the great reset  (2020) which served as the basis for the 2021 Davos meeting convened under the same slogan. The dramatic  shift of the economy, political and social model, as well as in the education one, was presented with absolute impunity. The  epistemic gap served to prevent the forecasting of  the profound impact it would entail on the quality of life of the working class and low-income countries.  Facing the global reset involves a collective solution to the epistemic gap, something in which the teaching profession can have a special role.

The epistemic gap is much more dramatic than the knowledge gap. The second is resolved with learning processes located in sources of knowledge, whether institutional or popular. While the first one, implies deconstructing and creating a new epistemology of society that accounts for the implications of the transition from the third to the fourth industrial revolution in: communities, education and school systems: a pending task at the organizational and community level.

Finally, the epistemic gap constitutes the central problem of anti-capitalist resistance in education because it blocks the construction of epochal alternatives. Also, that we build responses riding on such a dynamic reality as the current one and the context of the unusual acceleration of scientific and technological innovation.

Why does the epistemic gap in education arise?

We educational workers were formed with the archetype of the capitalist society of the first and second industrial revolutions. The known school system is a start-up of the Comenius cycle structure, of the gradual school logic, where everything works like a machine made up in parts, with difficulties that increase according to the patterns of age and school year. Pedagogy was fragmented and each of its parts autonomous; the curriculum became the center of education, the didactics a fair of proposals for educational dynamics often in conflict with the evaluation or the school management model.

We got used to thinking that  education in the educational system was disciplinary, because it was required by the capitalist world system in the first two industrial revolutions; but in order to confront this, we opposed transdisciplinarity as a break with sealed  knowledge. But they were not taught to see the process of mutation of capitalism as a result of the third industrial revolution; we did not understand that the alternative, transdisciplinarity, became the third industrial revolution required by the mode of production.

We had – and still have – difficulty in understanding the impact of the acceleration of scientific-technological innovation in education. At some point, conquests achieved in the  transformative agenda were erased after many struggles. These conquests which were considered as one of the central tasks of the school, high school and university focused mainly on the democratization of scientific, technological and community  knowledge. Democratization of knowledge,  meant for the capital view merely enabling graduates to be part of the mode of production in accordance with the requirements of each historical moment. However, it meant, for the proletariat, the possibility that their sons and daughters could appropriate science and  knowledge that was intended to be administered dropwise by the bourgeoisie. This loss of educational centrality of the democratization of state-of- the-art knowledge in schools contributed to the epistemic gap.

This was creating «certainties» that were impervious to the contingent. This petrification of routines and protocols became standardized until it was practically impossible to see another way of acting pedagogically. Bloom’s taxonomy, which emerged in the context of the Coleman (USA, 1966) and Fauré (Unesco, 1972) reports became not only the most popular but also the ideal way of developing curricula due to its possibilities for evaluating teacher performance and the development of  students’ learning. The curriculum became into the heart of education and from there it began to replace the pedagogical exercise. Teachers were turned into curricular administrators and their processes as dynamics of a machine, with rhythms, goals and temporality.

This unique (or unified) way of understanding the pedagogical act disabled the educational system and the teaching work to dialogue dialectically with innovation. Contextualized education became a narrative that hid the irreplaceable relationship between the local and the global in the teaching-learning processes. The growing localist gaze led to the current epistemic gap, functional to the logic of a sector of capital interested in the destruction of the face-to-face public school.

The epistemic gap is being used by sectors of capitalism linked to the large technology transnationals companies to present teachers as outdated and the face- to -face school as inefficient. In other words, it is proving to be functional to the new model of educational privatization (home schooling + virtuality + connection + digital content with costs assumed by families) .

How is the epistemic gap evident?

When I take my younger children to school I see with astonishment, how the educational rituals, school structure and pedagogical dynamics are too similar to those I experienced as a student 50 years ago or those ones  in which my older children later participated thirty years ago. Before the pandemic, educational institutions prohibited the use of cell phones in classrooms and had difficulty incorporating these devices into teaching-learning processes. In the midst of the information society, as the pandemic has shown, many schools not only do not have internet, computers for each student, or their own educational clouds, but they also have difficulty understanding the possibilities of digital and virtual world. In addition to this, many teachers are reluctant to approach the digital and virtual world with the sole argument that they are initiatives generated by transnational capital, without these questions being accompanied by the generation of alternative paths. Certainly the digital and virtual  built by technology transnationals encourages the  capitalist reproductive thinking, but that does not justify that alternatives from the virtual-digital are not presented.

Therefore, this pandemic has arosen a deep true in education:  there is a resistance to construct alternative pedagogical proposals in the virtual and digital world.  In fact, there is a lack of proposals in the curricular, didactic, evaluative, planning and management dimensions, which can go  throughout the face-to-face + virtual + digital world  into a harmonious way  and this shows the  existing epistemic gap nowadays.

• What can we do to bridge the epistemic gap?

I don’t like recipes and I am concerned about those who formulates them. So I only dare to point out aspects to be taken into account when building a roadmap. First, to open a debate that begins by formulating what the face-to-face school / university can be like in a 180 degree turn. Second, how this new educational institutionality incorporates virtuality + digital (DV) to the teaching-learning processes, not as a complement but as a constitutive part of the pedagogical dynamics. Third, to think about the curricular, didactic, evaluative, planning and management from a perspective of liberating presentiality and emancipatory computer programming. Fourth, to open a popular literacy process in algorithms and programming that allows building digital and virtual knowledge from schools and universities. Fifth, to understand the dynamics of unequal and combined development in a common orientation of the capitalist world system in the fourth industrial revolution.

This involves reconstructing the dialogic mechanisms for the recovery of knowledge and construction of knowledge, between teachers, students and families.

The epistemic gap expresses social inequalities and injustices, which generate exclusion and prevent material conditions of possibility to resolve it. The epistemic gap is a condemnation of global power that prevents the majority from understanding the reality in incessant change, in contexts of deep impact of the increasing acceleration of innovation.

Teachers’ unions  at the forefront of bridging  the epistemic gap

Teachers’ organizations represent the most important organized force in the teaching profession. They have built a defensive tradition that today is especially important to defend the teaching profession and the presential school. Teachers’ unions and gilds are privileged spaces to collectively discuss and understand what is happening and generate alternatives for resistance.

We do not idealize the trade unions and gilds; we are aware that many teacher organizations are bosses and bureaucratic, for this reason what we propose, it is fundamentally aimed at democratic organizations and not co-opted.

The year 2022 should be used to open a broad union debate in this regard. Breaking the epistemic gap is the only possibility to save the face-to-face public school, in the face of the looming technological storm and the announcements of the bursting of the educational bubble.

List of References

Bonilla-Molina, Luis (2021) The New Phase of the Global Pedagogical Blackout (GPB). Ediciones Ove. Caracas. Available in

Coleman (1966) Report of the State –of- the- Art of Education. / The Equality of Educational Report . Available in

Faure (1973). Learning to be : The World of Education Today and Tomorrow. UNESCO Editions. Available in

Kuhn, Tomas (1970). Second Thoughts about Paradigms.  Mimeographed text

Prensky. Marc (2010) Digital Natives y migrants. Available in

Schwab. K & Millaret (2020) Covid-19 The Great Reset.  E-Book.  Amazon book.

Wallerstein (1999). The Modern-World System . (4 tomos). Ediciones siglo XXI. México

Related Article

 The New Phase of the Global Pedagogical Blackout (2022-2030 and Beyond)


1. Expressions of epistemological chaos in the field of education in the transition between

     the third and fourth industrial revolution

2. Curricularisation of pedagogies

3. Curricular taxonomies and their impact on virtual logic

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

5. From prescribed learning objectives to dynamic learning

6, Elements for the production of digital content with a critical perspective

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

8. Reacting to prevent the bursting of the educational bubble / What is the educational bubble?

9. 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