Monday, 23 January 2012

The rise of Techno-Education 2011 - 2020

There was a point in the history of education where technology was quite a separate matter from education. Whilst schools and Universities had for many decades made use of classrooms, blackboards, slates, exercise books, pencils, textbooks, etc, not to mention the impact of printing a few centuries earlier, with the beginning of the explosion of information technology, the world of Universities and schools was far apart from the world of technology.

In the early years of the 21st century, the gap between them was narrowed, and within the first decade of the century, a point was arrived at where one could reasonably argue that they were 'coupled', or as other commentators preferred at the time, locked-in. Of course, this pattern of the resolution of the gap between the technological world and the educational world had been repeated many times before, the coupling of computers and education has particular implications which would spell the beginning of what would eventually be called the "age of techno-education".

The lock-in process also coincided with the great world economic collapse, which precipitated what was later  referred to as the end of the capitalist hegemony. The internal contradictions of capitalism which pitted the primeval needs of humankind against the workings of a production machine became more explicitly discernable, with many writers of the period  (of whom the most significant were Kernohan, Hall, Wilson, Grant and Sherlock) starting to identify new categories for understanding of economic and historical process. As with Marx, the process of 'changing' began with 'naming'.

Amongst the most significant categories of the new understanding were an increased awareness of the importance of 'care', 'attachment', 'compassion' and 'community', and the relations between these categories and the old priorities of 'profit', 'reward' and 'wealth'. As with Marx, the process of change brought about new human industries in the form of professionalised bureaucracies, but this time it was not the bureaucracies of the trades unions and the national welfare state that proliferated, but those of an energised and now global education industry.

The reasons for this rise of what was now a 'techno-education' are complex. Education wasn't cheap - but it seemed that however expensive it became (and by 2012, much state support for education had been withdrawn), individuals would pour the majority of their meagre resources (which included much of the resources that they might hope to accrue in the future) into it. Indeed, in the following years, there was a pattern of increasing resource being poured into education, and less into the ownership of property.

Education made itself more available and accessible through technology. Courses delivered through what were still very crude technological means gained in popularity. Moreover, as the scale of technologically-empowered delivery increased, and institutions converged on patterns of practice which could inter-operate, the autonomy of individual institutions lessened, and the large 'educorps' with which we are now familiar grew, "Oxbridge Enterprises" (now OXBRAND) becoming the largest in the world having been established in 2015.

But the rise of techno-education was a puzzle, because much of what education delivered up until about 2020 was, on the whole, not very good. Levels of student ability upon graduation, and levels of employment did not reflect the levels of investment that had been made in education. Until 2013, 'student satisfaction surveys' had been conducted regularly which seemed to indicate that everything was fine - until the emerging realisation that any individual who spends the vast bulk of their resources on an unwise venture is more than likely to defend their decision!

It was this realisation, however, that underpinned the way things were working in techno-education. For it appeared that the profligacy of individual educational expenditure was part-and-parcel of its continued viability, and no level of inadequacy of what was delivered would ultimately cause it to collapse (although one or two institutions did effectively collapse, but only into each other!). Techno-education was rooted in basic human needs which were channeled through a combination of the massification enabled by technology together with a socio-economic 'credo', promoted by governments around the world, which made sure that the individual profligacy was deemed absolutely essential. In this way, the world's economy turned away from manufacturing towards a combination of the techno-education industry and the techno-health industry to keep itself going.

However, by the end of the 2nd decade of the 21st century, the weaknesses of this model were starting to become apparent. Aside from the often excruciating levels of personal taxation which individuals had to bear as a result of their educational exploits, the social order was increasingly suffering from the problem that some aspects of the pre-techno education system were now lacking: most notably, the ability to think critically and to posses deep historical, philosophical and cultural perspective on the current situation. For whilst techno-education has attempted  to address precisely these issues directly (with compulsory 'critical thinking', 'internationalisation' and 'employability' addenda to courses, for example), in fact these addenda didn't work. What emerged was in fact a new kind of caste system: it was the children of educated families who possessed the critical qualities lacking in those who may well have had the same education, but did not have the same parents. And so, in 2020, the family reform act attempted to directly address the inherent inequalities of the relationship between family and techno-education, which resulted in the gradual convergence of 'techno-parenting' and 'techno-education'...

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