Technologies, the teacher and the performativity

This short write-up is informed by my engagement with the government and private school teachers in the state of Jharkhand, where the teachers, once made the subjects of a technological intervention in their respective schools, started feeling alienated in their daily routine. While there could be many reasons for this disenchantment, the introduction of the technology was certainly a break-point and a common factor across all the schools.

The discourse around the technology has brought the significant changes in the way education was traditionally being administered and governed. The combine of neoliberal rationalities with the technology has made the teachers even more vulnerable by subjecting them to the advanced disciplinary tools. The ‘gaze’ of performativity has led to the teachers losing their autonomy and the sense of purpose. If on the one hand, the recognizable technologies such as CCTV cameras, biometrics, etc. have made teachers performing the daily rituals of conformity and adherence to the rules, on the other hand, more sophisticated and invisible technologies such as contractual nature of the jobs, ‘monitoring system’ and the ‘production of information’, coupled with the inherent biases of ‘neo-Taylorism’ have turned the teachers into the managers of expectations (of parents) and performances (of students). The teacher has now become a Joker in the circus of education, performing at the whims and fancies of the audience. He has to live in the constant fear of the losing his job, as the circus might decide to replace him with some other actor anytime in case of the underperformance. Like the characters in the movie series, ‘Hunger Games’, teachers have to dehumanize and anesthetize themselves to perform to the expectations of the audience, which has been termed by Lyotard (1994) as the ‘terrors of performativity.’

In a typical neoliberal institutional framework, the performativity act upon the individuals through the mechanism of recording of facts, evaluations, the appraisal review, report writing, inspection and peer reviews. The judgments and comparisons made through these technologies tend to push the individuals into a structure where rewards (both material and symbolic) are decided based on the set parameters. The essentializing features of these technologies have huge social and psychological costs for the teachers. Their autonomy over the production and the distribution of the knowledge has been taken away, leading to the reactions of extreme helplessness and powerlessness. The separation of the teachers from the curriculum and the pedagogy has reduced them to a mere tool, with a sole objective of transmitting the given knowledge in the minds of the pupils.

References:

Bernstein, B., & Solomon, J. (1999). ‘Pedagogy, identity and the construction of a theory of symbolic control’: Basil Bernstein questioned by Joseph Solomon. British journal of sociology of education, 20(2), 265–279.

Ball, S. J. (2017). Education as the Pedagogy of the Self. In Foucault as Educator (pp. 61–88). Springer International Publishing.

Lyotard, J.-F. (1984) The Postmodern Condition: a report on knowledge, vol. 10 (Manchester: Manchester University Press).

EdTech, Educational Data Sciences, Childhood Studies, History of Education & Policy Sociology, curate @central_ed , Currently @IIMAhmedabad

EdTech, Educational Data Sciences, Childhood Studies, History of Education & Policy Sociology, curate @central_ed , Currently @IIMAhmedabad