28 Aug 2003
The Demise of Managerialism
Having recently read an article by a group of academics from England it prompted me to write the following in relation to my current place of employment. The article concerns the march of ‘managerialism’, in places of Higher Education. (Written by Clegg et al and titled: The Emperor’s New Clothes: Globalisation and e learning in Higher Education. British Journal of Sociology in Education, vol.24, no. 1, 2003.)
It addresses the recently perceived demands for e-learning facilities by the ‘market’ of educational customers, formally known as ‘students’. And the demands being placed on academics to fulfill these customer requirements at the demise of pedagogical interests.
It also addressed the all-pervasive notion that the spread of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) as a result of Globalisation is not as deterministic as we are being told. The central tenet of their argument is that the government of many nation states are encouraging the populations of their states to see globalisation as an unstoppable force. Then they use this as evidence that all spheres of the social including education will be closely integrated if not dominated by ICT.
The reason the worlds politicians are demanding that specific educational policies incorporate ICT is that the ‘inevitable’ future will be dominated by the internet and that in order to compete, the future generations of their people will need to be ready to work in that environment. It makes their workers more competitive in the future. Therefore the current educators, lecturers, teachers and tutors must enable the future generations to meet the increased competition that will ensue. This entire argument is built on a grand theory (globalisation) that is attempting to predict the future in the same way as early modernist theorists attempted to do so. The notion that globalisation is the primary cause of social changes effecting the society that we live in is rather narrow sighted.
The current debate around globalisation claims that the State as a force of change is now outmoded, and needs to resign itself to the unstoppable forces of Globalisation, Capitalism and ICT. The claim is that globalisation and the other forces are un-challengable and overwhelming. They argue that they should be challenged. (Clegg et al, 2003)
The locus of efforts needs to be the discourse between ‘Educators’ and ‘Managers’ of educational institutions.
This now brings me to the letter I published recently on this blog with reference to lecturer’s appearance and other issues.
The management of the educational establishment tries to get the lectures to take it seriously as a ‘customer’ complaint. And as every good businessman knows, ‘the customer is always right’. The crux of the matter is that we are not business people and the customer is actually a student and IS WRONG.
Yes, every one is free to express their opinion and yes it will be heard and listened to. But it may not and does not have to be acted upon. The student is sitting in the room because the student doesn’t know and assumes that the lecturer does. Treating the student as a customer instantly undermines the roles associated with the individuals in the context of a ‘learning environment’.
The orientation of the current educational establishment that I work in is openly ‘customer centric’ and the market. This produces managers who apply ‘an atomistic and mechanistic understanding of knowledge and learning’. With the introduction of the government backed SQC awards the ISO9001 educational establishments are attempting to further bureaucratically control and regulate knowledge. (Brian Salter and Ted Tapper, 2000)
There are various responses open to educators in light of this onslaught. Some lecturers openly support and promote the advancement of ‘managerialism’, others appear to comply but actually do not and are happy to maintain the status quo. The last response is ‘rejection’. Out and out rejection is very muted.
The ‘rejectionist approach’ is dominated by the central idea that education does not have to focus on producing the future oppressed, dominated and exploited workers. They argue that attention should be removed from the relationship between the student and new technology and back to the relationship between student and teacher. The negotiations between educators and managers have to allow for the position that e learning not be used at all. That technology be used only when it is appropriate to do so in relation to the concrete situation of the student. When is it appropriate to use e learning and when is it not?
Their conclusion sounds remarkably familiar; that genuinely innovative development may be found when driven by pedagogic (education autonomous from other social institutions), democratic and critical concerns. Academics can avoid becoming complacent by reminding people of the pitfalls of declaring something as inevitable. Technology dominating all spheres of human life merely requires our complacency.