Regions outside Europe are often attested a higher level of social heterogeneity and inequality on various axes. But even in Western Europe, social change and processes of migration have generated a greater degree of social diversity during the last decades. Which interdependencies, if any, can be traced between social heterogeneity and ideas/systems of education? In which contexts has education facilitated the empowerment of marginalized subjects and groups? How do students from different social backgrounds make use of educational opportunities? What role do habitus and practices of assessment within the educational institutions play? What influence do gender and class inequalities or other factors of social discrimination have on the accessibility of (higher) education? What experience do we have with affirmative action and quotas? When does education become a cause of social mobilization? Do the poor receive a different form of education?
The question of which forms of knowledge are recognized as education – or in German “Bildung” – can be fundamentally contested. Therefore, the process that renders certain forms of knowledge education while excluding others needs to be problematized as an arena of (implicit) political struggle and as a way of wielding social power. Moreover, many regions outside Europe have been affected by colonial pasts. This panel seeks to address the complex topic of global knowledge asymmetries, by asking questions such as: What is the relationship between indigenous knowledge/education and external influences? To what extent have colonial legislation, the associated institutional structures and ideas of education, elite, etc. been impacting on (post-) colonial systems of education? What influence does the formation of the (nation-) state and subsequent politico-economic developments have on ideas and practices of inequality and education?
Yusuf Sayed is the South African Research Chair in Teacher Education and the Founding Director of the Centre for International Teacher Education at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa. His research focuses on education policy formulation and implementation as it relates to concerns of equity, social justice and transformation.
South African Pre-School (Photo: private)
The formal end of apartheid was greeted with much optimism and many expectations. A new Government of National Unity with Nelson Mandela at its head signalled a new just and democratic social order, including social justice in and through education. Redress was assured through the deracialisation of education provision and the opening of schools, through equality in education spending and through a commitment to positive discrimination in favour of the marginalised. Whilst there have been many gains, twenty years later, formally desegregated yet class-based educational institutions, continuing disparities and inequities and poor academic achievement are key features of the contemporary educational order. Learner assessment results suggest that South Africa is characterised by a two-tier system of education, resulting in a poorly resourced public schooling sector serving the poor, while the wealthy have access to semi-private public schools and have significant management control over the running of the schools, rupturing the ideals of social cohesion encapsulated in the powerful metaphor of the “rainbow nation”. Based on a review of education policy in South Africa since 1994 (Sayed, Kanjee, & Nkomo 2013), this paper considers how this has come about, focusing specifically on a review of the changes in the governance of schools since 1994. The paper argues that for the poor in South Africa the doors of quality learning and education and social mobility remain firmly shut. In this context, this paper also considers some key strategies to advance social justice. The paper is a call to act with urgency to reform South Africa’s educational approach to make it possible to address the systemic crisis of education that especially affects South Africa’s historically disadvantaged and marginalized peoples.
Conference Paper to be presented by David MacDonald
David MacDonald is a Full Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Guelph, Canada. He has been actively involved with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, coordinating sharing circles and academic panels, and authored the chapter on genocide for the TRC’s Final Report, due in mid-2015.
From the 1880s, the Canadian government, along with the four main Christian Churches, ran a network of Indian Residential Schools for over a century. Legislation from 1920 forced Aboriginal children to attend, and children were ostensibly kidnapped from their parents. The schools were often poorly run, received very low funding and had high mortality rates. The focus was often on training in agriculture and domestic labour to prepare children to be workers, while actual Western education (promoting literacy and numeracy) was sporadic. Sometimes described as “total institutions”, the IRS system saw staff wielding almost complete control over the lives of their young charges. High rates of verbal, physical and sexual abuse were endemic. The schools exacerbated problems of structural inequality, which had a knock-on effect afterwards, as high rates of intergeneration trauma perniciously undermined the ability of many Aboriginal communities to function either in their traditional ways or according to Western models. In the IRS system, the actual education of children was almost always a secondary goal. For the Churches, conversion and linguistic and cultural assimilation were central goals. For the government, aggressive assimilation was designed in part to clear indigenous land for settlement. In coming to terms with seven generations of schooling, the UN Genocide Convention is increasingly used, with a focus on article 2(e), which prohibits the forced transfer of children from one group to another. This presentation also problematizes the term “education” – since colonial educational practices can have a detrimental effect on indigenous peoples, especially if they are (1) radically different from pre-existing practices developed over thousands of years and (2) designed to colonize young minds and bodies and promote forms of self-loathing. The dissonance between indigenous educational and spiritual practices forms an important backdrop for understanding why these forms of education were so devastating.
Conference Paper to be presented by Peter Kallaway
Peter Kallaway is an Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Western Cape and a Research Associate at the University of Cape Town. He is interested in the history of education in South Africa and British colonial Africa, particularly in the interaction between missionary educators, philanthropists, and colonial governments.
South African Pre-School (Photo: private)
The forms of knowledge that came to dominate the African colonial mission school curriculum, and later government schools, have often been criticised for their lack of sensitivity to African or indigenous culture and languages. This state was famously termed “cultural imperialism” in the 1970s and was said to have been one of the causes of the weakness of the educational systems that were inherited by the new national states in the independence era. For example, there was a move to promote an authentic heritage of knowledge (Indigenous Knowledge Systems, IKS) in South Africa after 1994 in keeping with this perceived need to transform public knowledge in line with the liberation politics of the contemporary order.