/Neoliberal pirates assaulting the right to education: capitalist EdTech seizes an essential public commodity; our digital sovereignty – Enrique Javier Díez Gutiérrez & Benjamín Mallo Rodríguez

Neoliberal pirates assaulting the right to education: capitalist EdTech seizes an essential public commodity; our digital sovereignty – Enrique Javier Díez Gutiérrez & Benjamín Mallo Rodríguez

Enrique Javier Díez Gutiérrez – Professor at the University of León – SPAIN
Benjamín Mallo Rodrígue – Professor at the University of León and Counselor in Educational Centers – SPAIN

„Only one month left and we already have more than 15,000 attendees! We are breaking registration records“. This was the announcement of the call for the „Virtual Educa Connect“ meeting denominated “ Educational Reset: Digital Ecosystems for Human Development“. Virtual meeting with sessions on Edtech focusing on „innovation in education“, „new contexts and educational demands“, „impact initiatives“, etc. and aimed at the „educators of the 21st century“ after the coronavirus, in order to „revolutionize“ education.

Conference titles were significant: „The Flipped Learning model as a foundation for the post-pandemic mixed education system“ by the Minister of Education of the Misiones Province, Argentina; „Be TalentSTEAM“ by the General Director of the Altran Foundation for Innovation; „Soft Skills, skills and competencies to face the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4RI)“ by the Vice Rector of the National Academic Areandina; „O-City. org: Boosting the Orange Economy through Education“ by the UPV’s Director of the Innovation Chair or „The role of accelerators in digital innovation in education: how to support and boost startups“ by the Director of SEK Lab Edtech Accelerator.

During this meeting, they explain, they will address how to apply artificial intelligence [AI] and Big Data, the Internet of Things [IoT], Block Chain or Cloud Computing to the educational field. The program is sponsored by Microsoft, Pearson, Intel, IE Business School, the World Bank, the OECD and many of the big players in corporate partnerships in the educational field.

This might be one of the numerous examples that bloom like fields in spring, in these times of pandemic and confinement. In the aftermath of COVID-19, the digital education is being sold as the „new salvation“ by EdTech1 gurus. Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI), digital platforms and the cloud will bring us the modernization of an education stuck in the last century, they proclaim in a re-edited „savior story“ of technological solutionism as a miracle cure for education. In this way, the big sponsors of EdTech2 are promoting their definitive assault on education, pushing for hybrid governance which proclaims the imperative need for public-private collaboration to manage the education of the future.

In this way, we witness how digital data, code and software algorithms are blended with certain political agendas related to educational governance, commercial interests of large corporations, business ambitions of venture capital funds and business objectives with philanthropic marketing, which allocate enormous amounts of economic investment to create new ways of understanding and imagining education and intervene in it, as if it were a new market and capitalist expansion niche (Fleming, 2016; Haddad & Reckhow, 2018). The informal means of collective thought construction (Netflix, Walt Disney, Fox, MTV, etc.) are already in their hands, but they also control the formal means of socialization of future generations and exploit a big business that moves many billions of dollars annually.3

  1. English abbreviation for "Educational Technology".
  2. EdTech UK was promoted by Boris Johnson, then Mayor of London and current British Prime Minister, with the support of the Department of Finance and a private coalition of technology companies, to "help accelerate the growth of the UK's education technology sector" and to ensure extraordinary benefits in a "large and profitable market". It was established by the Education Foundation, a think-thank which collaborates with the Department for Education and the Secretary of State for Education, and develops a network of corporate partnerships with Facebook, IBM, Pearson, HP, Randstad Education, Cambridge University Press, McKinsey, Skype, Sony, Google and Samsung.
  3. The "edTech" sector will reach 10 trillion euros by 2030. In 2018, it has already set a record: 8.2 billion, compared to 1.4 billion invested in 2014, according to a Barclays report on EdTech (Garcia, 2019).