EARLI 2019 invited Symposium_Rethinking tomorrow’s education in South Africa

EARLI 2019 invited Symposium_Rethinking tomorrow’s education in South Africa

Session Chair: Prof Gert van der Westhuizen, University of Johannesburg

Discussant: Prof Michael Sameul, University of KwaZulu-Natal



Analysis methods: case studies; meta-analysis; qualitative; secondary data analysis

Areas of Research: assessment methods; cultural diversity; education policy; teacher professional development

Discipline: philosophy; values education

Level of Education and setting: doctoral education; higher education

Theoretical Framework: knowledge creation; multicultural education

EARLI domains: Culture, morality, religion and Education; Educational policy and systems; Higher education; Teaching and teacher education

Submitted for SAERA by

Van der Westhuizen







Rethinking tomorrow’s education in South Africa

Thinking about tomorrow’s education in South Africa, despite the advent of political democracy, requires rethinking thinking, i.e. thinking about the whole of the educational enterprise, its constitutive rules, and the prescriptive role of academia and Western Science (Odora Hoppers & Richards 2010). This Symposium is a contribution to rethinking thinking in education, and presents South African perspectives on one of the global challenges in considering tomorrow’s education: the role of knowledge, how it is defined, and the imperative of inclusivity and education for all in the true sense of the word. The four papers submissions encourage debates to go beyond rhetoric and anticipate education for the future to contribute in the end to social justice in society.




Paper 1

Ndofirepi, Amasa

The African university in the neoliberal era: in pursuit of socially –just knowledges in the 21st century

 This theoretical paper is critical exposé of the knowledge processes pervading African universities in the 21st century in which I make a case for socially-just epistemologies.  My thesis is premised in three main claims namely

1) universities and the knowledge they produce and disseminate have a critical role in foregrounding the change and development agenda for the rebirth of Africa;

2) the production and mediation of knowledge is a genuinely political process (Weiler, 2011b) just as universities can be considered among the most political institutions in society (Ordorika, 1999) and

3) the recontextualisation and transformation of university epistemologies (Weiler, 2011a) is a prerequisite for an authentic postcolonial African university.

I argue against the pervasive neoliberalism complemented with discourses of globalisation and the knowledge economy originating from the North which continue to significantly shape university knowledge systems in Africa as I show theoretical evidence of how the contemporary African university lacks genuine critical discussion especially in the context of the perpetual hegemonic unequal epistemological paradigms. Noting that contemporary knowledges in African universities continue to maintain the erstwhile colonisers’ curricula content and pedagogy years after political independence, I proffer an argument for democratic epistemic spaces in the universities in Africa that are socially just serving the interests and priorities of Africa first before looking at the global.


Decolonisation; epistemologies; globalisation; development, neoliberalisation, commodification; Africanisation


Paper 2

Ramrathan, Labby

School of Education, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Moving beyond the rhetoric of decolonisation: From education for all to education for relevance

Gripped in the fierce debates in deconlonisation unfolding within South Africa, this paper attempt to move beyond the rhetoric by exploring school education from situated analysis to understand and find prospective solutions on why the school education system is failing its nation.  Empirical evidence through case studies of schools within KwaZulu-Natal, using interviews with teachers and learners and observations of teaching and transact walks into communities, revealed that the national school curriculum does not meet the needs and aspirations of the learners.  It is highly structured, rigid and all learners are expected to take the same curriculum structure irrespective of the diversity of learners and the diversity of the learning environments.  Most teachers reported that they are not able to teach according to the curriculum plan as they are disrupted by the contextual challenges that learners find themselves in and the daily issues that the learners present themselves with in class and which teachers have to respond to.  Hence their formal teaching time is substantially reduced.  Learners, equally, have little interest in learning the formal curriculum and attend school because they have to as part of their growing up.  Hence their focus on schooling is only on passing the assessment for grade progression.  The paper contributes to the debates on decolonisation of school curriculum with suggestions on how to move forward beyond such debates.

Paper 3

Decolonisation, cognitive justice and teacher education

Gert van der Westhuizen

University of Johannesburg

South Africa

Teacher education in South African is confronted by calls for the decolonisation of knowledge, requiring inquiries into what the knowledge crisis in education is all about and what the implications are for changes in policies and practices. These are the contextual imperatives, described as knowledge injustice (Odora Hoppers 2001; 2002), subjugation (Keet 2014), and exclusion (Mbembe 2015), despite the political democracy and transformation of education policies of 1994.

This paper explores notions of cognitive justice, i.e. the right of citizens and communities to have their knowledge included as in curricula. Drawing on the work by Visvanathan (2006; 2011), Odora Hoppers (2009; 2013) and De Sousa Santos (2007; 2015), this paper is an analysis of perspectives of cognitive justice in order to identify criteria which can be used to review teacher education policies and practices. A selection of criteria/guiding principles of cognitive justice are used for an exemplary evaluation of a teacher education policy document currently under review, namely “The minimum requirements for Teacher Education Qualifications” (DHET 2015). This policy includes descriptions of required “knowledge mixes” in teacher education programmes.

The evaluation of the policy in terms of CJ principles indicate that assumptions made about knowledge, knowledge plurality and inclusion need to be clarified, and goals of cognitive reconstruction articulated. Findings of this evaluation confirm the need to rethink teacher education in SA on deeper levels, especially with a view of transforming education for the future.

Implications for thinking about the future of education internationally, are explored.


Paper 4

Sameul, Michael, A

University of KwaZulu-Natal


Change and continuity in doctoral supervision: A case study of a South African University


This paper explores a case study of a single university in post-apartheid South Africa as its address the challenges of the backlog of doctoral productivity. The paper foregrounds that quests for alternative models of doctoral supervision/learning are being undercut by dominant performativity and econometric rationalities. That which is rewarded by the systemic levers to promote doctoral education (subsidy allocations, financial incentives to staff, institutional reputation), drive the agenda rather than the examination of the quality of the contribution of the doctoral graduate is likely to make in the future society. Data is drawn from specific doctoral education projects of the institution in its School of Education, in the wider institutional context and in collaboration with international partners. The systemic discourses of output tend to negate the goals of exploring locally relevant worthwhile knowledge, and agendas of competition dominate the higher education environment. Despite efforts to engage alternatives such has collaborative cohort models of supervision, decolonising the nature of the relationships with international partners, as well as supporting through mentoring development of novice staff and doctoral candidates, the system rewards those who demonstrate a “return on investment logic”.

The paper presents paradoxical metaphors of knowledge construction that infuse this contradictory curriculum space of doctoral education. The challenges for the expansion of the doctoral research institutionally, nationally and continentally are highlighted. Failure to attend to these present rationalities is likely to place South Africa and Africa at the continued lower rungs of contributing to worthwhile global theoretical knowledge through its PhD endeavours.

(250 words)

Keywords: worthwhile doctoral education; supervision models; cohort models of doctoral learning