Introduction | Manoj NY

by Critical Asia

by Manoj NY, Dec. 2021】

It is indisputable that the pan endemic caused by the coronavirus in its virulent explosion on a planetary scale has an appalling toll on human lives across the world in multiple ways – effectuating a crisis in the domains of economy and industry, crisis in terms of labour in the case of migrant workers and the organisation of precarious labour, exposing the already plagued health care system and offering new physiological and psychological challenges, the disappearing boundaries between the work and domestic space while relocating the workspace (and thus the new euphemism ‘work from home’) etc. to note a few. The hypervelocity and the transversal transmission of the virus, and the individuation of the virus in its repetition (mutations) expose the hidden interdependence of life and non life, material and immaterial, geos and bios in its chaotic fold. With this turn, the very notion of ‘social’ has undergone a drastic churning at the level of experience and knowledge in the varied practises of mitigating risks, of becoming a compliant and responsible subject following the new social contract based on self isolation, social distancing, quarantining and masking.

While addressing the concerns raised especially in the context of pandemic, what is almost forgotten is the question of education and the position of children in its shift to virtual spaces of adopting hybrid methods of teaching, learning and assessing. The intrusion of corporate digital platform giants into the already plagued model of education in India raises serious concerns. The algorithmic logic of digital capitalism reduces the student to the status of ‘user’, offering the threat of digital exhaust and subjecting the digital trail to the benefit of corporate logic instantiating the ever expanding diagram of the control society. While exploring the online mode as the alternative and effective mode to address the crisis, very often the disruptive aspects of this technological turn are not given due attention. The disruption of the ‘face to face’ interaction in the teaching/learning process is now mediated by the algorithmic logic that demands a quantum of technological capital worsening the structural exclusions and the existing modes of aparthied in the Indian educational sector. The pandemic situation becomes an instance for the state to blend the neoliberal frameworks and necropolitics by aggravating the inequities existing in the society. The shift to online learning and teaching, and the continued commercialisation of education are augmented by the new education policy proposed by the government of India during the course of the pandemic.

This issue of Critical Asia Archives focuses on certain critical reflections from the ‘world’ of educators in India on the shift to hybrid methods of teaching adopted during the pandemic. All the pieces of writing probe critically the contemporary haptic media habitats and the immense penetration of  screens in our everyday educational life from the vantage point of the lived experience of ‘online teachers’. It is no longer the society of spectacle, but the society of screens! We are entangled in the world of screens, whether it be mobile phones, ipads, laptop/computer screens, television, cinema, ATM etc. In the Heideggerian sense, we need to explore the nuances of our ever increasing interaction with the screens, that is to understand the ontology of the new medium – screen qua screen. This inquiry will also be a reflection of our own way of being-in-the-world, as it shapes, affects, mediates and in short ‘enframes’ our existence. The unconcealment of the conditions of this shift or the disclosure of its referential whole will open up the horizon.

Sundar Sarukkai in his article explores the reasons for why the new mode of teaching-learning can be reductive and its consequences of the loss of features integral to education, especially in the field of humanities and social sciences. The most important feature that has gone missing in online teaching, Sarukkai argues, is that of the element of caring and argues for the pertinence of the concept of teaching as caring. The poem written by Priyadarshini Verma captures the spirit of ‘aletheia’ (unconcealment) which unravels the shift in the register of teacher-learner interaction in the new mediated environment. Meera Baindur, in her piece focuses on the importance of the social aspects of learning which is missing in the hybrid mode of teaching and Asim opens up the question of first generation students  in the context of existing inequities in the educational sector, to propose an ambedkarite alternative. Saima Saaed in her article critically looks at the theme of children and education and argues that the pandemic brought the deeply rooted inequities that characterise Indian society to the fore.

Manoj NY, Kyung Hee University, South Korea

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