Draft NEP Has a Co-operate Agenda And Lead to Commercialization of Education.
It is not the Commission Report that decides the national policy of education. From 1991 onwards, policy designers have been increasingly under the influence of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Since 2005, the nation has been legally responsible to adopt an education policy that suits trade in education under General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). Its immediate requirement accounted for the constitution ofthe National Knowledge Commission (NKC), a high-level advisory body to the Prime Ministerfor the making of ‘a vibrant society competent to meet the knowledge challenges of the 21st century.’In short, it is the global economy that makespolicy and turns it into law. No document as such becomes policy in a democratic country that lets discussions and debates over there. Despite all criticisms, the agenda of the dominant economy prevails.
Ever since the signing of GATTS agreement by the nation, education has become legally, a profiteering private enterprise in the country. According to the provisions provided for in the agreement, an educational institution charging a fee, even if it is a meagre sum, shall be treated under the category of trade. As a result, knowledge is regarded as a commercial item licensed for exchange across the world. Education has ceased to be a public good of socio-cultural use-value. Knowledge is produced and transmitted today as an object of exchange for accumulating profit. Commoditization has made knowledge into an explicit, standardized, codified, and priced object of exchange-value. It is the major enterprise of latest capitalism, the globally dominant economy, in recent times. In a country like India, its consequences are intense, for it enhances access disparity with respect to opportunities of knowledge acquisition. However, the dominant economy is being represented as the ideal path towards a nation of people’s welfare. In a note on NEP Draft 2016, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) defines knowledge economy as one in which people have ‘ability to create and disseminate knowledge and use it for economic growth and improved standard of living.’Draft NEP 2019 envisages the transformation of the country into a ‘vibrant knowledge society,’ as construed by the NKC that views knowledge as a marketable product, and not what scientists or technologists generate in their fields for public use.
Knowledge economy is a popular expressionfor Technocapitalism.Heavily dependent on science and technology, it commoditizes knowledge in them. In thiseconomy, science and technology help generate and regenerate capital through production and exchange of new knowledge over there. Andrew Feenberg calls it a new version of capitalism.Science-Tech creativity is turned into both commodity and capital under Technocapitalism. Software based electronic communication is a site that exemplifies generation and transaction of amazingly huge sums of capital at the instance of one package or the other. There are numerous instances of sale and purchase of patents and intellectual property worth billions of dollars.
Technocapitalist industrial enterprises the world over, are run by corporate establishments depending extensively on research and intellectual appropriation. They have given rise to new experimentalist organizations, stably grounded in technological research, as opposed to the manufacturing of goods and servicesin the past industrial system. Under Technocapitalism, ‘new knowledge’ and ‘creativity’ become the most valuable resources, as much as what raw materials and factory labour used to be under industrial capitalism. Luis Suarez-Villarelates the emergence of Technocapitalism to the process of globalization and the growth of Technocapitalist Corporations (TCs). He argues that it is a new version of capitalism that hasbuilt up an altogether different type of industry for manufacturing not tangible goods and services as in the past, but ‘intangibles’ like‘creativity,’ and ‘intellectual property.’ TCs have now globally built up many such industries that are, according to Suarez-villa, huge experimentalist establishmentsrigorously engaged in science-tech researches by employing thousands of young creative brains for the production of intangible assets like intellectual property rights and patents. Science-tech creativity is turned into both commodity and capital under the technocapitalist corporate regimes that are primarily oriented towards research and intellectual appropriation.
Michael Perelman, in the political-economy perspective,has delineated how Corporate Houses have now erected a complex system of IPR,enabling them to confiscate creativity of the science-tech youth. Corporate establishments resort to various clever ways and means of appropriating research outcomes through new electronically sophisticated relations of power. They have globally established a powerful techno-military complex for the corporate appropriation of new knowledge and its entailing forms like IPR. Often it becomes a very violentbut sophisticated confiscation of the intangibles from the young researchers.Needless to say that it has a profound negative impact on the society, economy, science, technology, work culture and working-class ethics.
Research as Industry
In the gigantic research industries of TCs, many highly specialized employees from all over the world work in multiple capital-intensive projects on technological breakthroughs such as functional and structural genomics, graphene-engineering, Nanotech sensors and transmitters, brain-computer interfaces, robotics and so on. Thousands of young scientists of high instrumentation culture, often qualified as the innovators of tomorrow, are working like robots in these research establishments at various locations around the world.TCs compete with oneanother in buying patents and IPR for enhancing their market power, and to be the first to come up with new products and services based on them. Perelman says that this competition is leading to substantial theft of patented knowledge and infringement of IPR. Naturally, litigations relating to IPR theft and infringement increase day by day.
A nicely and elaborately written document, the NEP draft has been drawing many to dally around with temptations. Actually, this document is like the Trojan horse for people to play about, not knowing the secret operation in progress underneath. Its corporate agenda is explicit in the document, but described in a sweet-coated language palatable to all. Many people, taking ‘knowledge society’ and ‘knowledge economy’ as high watermarks of civilization, vainly debate over various other issues of subsidiary importance. Actually, the NEP Agenda is to persuade the Union Government to divert national revenue for the growth of technocapitalism under the guise of educational reform. The political consequence shall be the formation of a fascist state masked by democracy and yoked under transnational imperialism.
Corporates need the country’s education sector to be centralized under a single authority to integrate, homogenize, reduceand regulate in ‘challenge mode’ to make processing and mobilization of the academic raw material in the country efficient and fast. They want in all institutions of higher education in the country an environment that suits knowledge industry for preparing graduates to be innovative in diverse fields of global demand. Since this is not immediately possible everywhere, they want a few institutions of excellence to come up fast using public funding,but through competitive selection and graded promotion.These institutions alone would not do for the long-term requirements of the corporate institutions. This accounts for the corporates’ pressure to reorganize and reduce the entire institutions into categories and clusters amenable to centralized control under a top-heavy structure.
The corporates’ pressure is explicit in the NEP document’s proposal to reduce the eight hundred universities and forty thousand colleges into fifteen thousand institutions. It accounts for recommendations for nationally planned curricula and homogenized academic programmes with centrally administered learning outcomes and uniformly standardized exit examinations. The proposal for RashtriyaSikshaAyog, an apex body headed by the Prime Minister to take every terminal decision regarding the fate of higher education and research is exactly what the corporates construed.
The NEP draft document 2019 claims itself a move towards high quality, universal education, ensuring the ability to contribute to the growing developmental imperatives of the country on the one hand, and towards creating a just and equitable society on the other. It quotes the UN Declaration 1948 Article 26: ‘everyone has the right to education, education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages shall be compulsory…. Human rights and fundamental freedom…’ UNESCO 1996: ‘Learning to know, to do, learning to live together, and learning to be’.
All ideal forms of education and practices are splashed across the document. Nonetheless, every good idea or practice is mentioned only asa rhetoric veil to hide the real. It uses the terms equity andsustainability, wherever possible, with least concern about their incompatibility in the context. Look at this:‘transforming the nation sustainably into an equitable and vibrant knowledge society by providing high quality education to all’;… ‘by drawing from India’s heritage, taking forward the agenda of previous education policies, alignment with global sustainable development goals, an integrated yet flexible approach to education, liberal arts approach in higher education, focus on high quality research, facilitating transformation of the education system, facilitating national development,and ensuring implementation in spirit and intent.
The document claims ‘to provide a framework for the transformation and reinvigoration of the education system in order to satisfy the requirements of the fast-changing knowledge-based societies while taking into account the diversity of the Indian people, their traditions, cultures and languages.’ It seeks to ensure human capital, the most vital form of capital that would fuel the necessary transformation, secure and strong. It promises ‘an educational system built on the premises of quality, central to sustainable development, for achieving success in the emerging knowledge economy and society, for socio-economic mobility and for building an equitable, just and humane society.’ Knowledge economy is projectedas something indispensable for ‘the country’s economic growth and improved standard of living.’
How can knowledge economy,voraciously aftercapital accumulation - whichwidens inequalities, increases brain drain, deprives the nation of chances to secure intellectual property, and precludes the availability of innovative minds for attending to the basic issues of the ordinary people’s life - help attain all these wonderfulgoals like equitable, just and humane society? It is Technocapitalism that consolidates a global techno-military-corporate complex by rapidly replacing the military-industrial complex of the 20th century capitalism;causing major social, economic, and political consequences.Corporate higher education and research, obviously inaccessible to the economically and socially under privileged, precludes equity. Already privatisation and commercialization of the education sector have completely upset efforts to strive for equity and access. Therefore, sustainable transformation of the nation into a vibrant knowledge society is a ponderous paradox adnauseam.
Value loaded words, liberally dispensed all over the document, contradict against one another.It is natural to a document obliged to the dominant economy, strategically tendingto please everybody’s interests. Hence the document falls flat, vainly pretending to represent conflicting needs, interests and concerns of widely differentiated classes in the country, varying between millionaires and slum-dwellers.It is a document, utterly self-contradictory.
Feenberg, A. (1991), Critical Theory of Technology,New York:Oxford University Press.
Perelman, Michael(2004), Steal this Idea: Intellectual Property Rights and the CorporateConfiscation of Creativity, London: Palgrave Macmillan
Suarez-Villa, Luis (2009), Globalization and Techno-capitalism: The Political Economy ofCorporate Power and Technological Domination, Famham: Ashgate
Suarez-Villa, Luis (2012),Techno-capitalism: A Critical Perspective on TechnologicalInnovation and Corporatism, Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
See A. Feenberg (1991), Critical Theory of Technology, New York: Oxford University Press