An examination of the potential of culturalhistorical activity theory (CHAT) for explaining transitions in national education systems

  • Johannes L van der Walt, Prof. North-West University, South Africa
  • Charl C Wolhuter, Prof. North-West University, South Africa
Keywords: Education, Education systems theory, National transitions, Cultural-historical activity theory, Transitiology, Social action theory, Critical theory, South Africa


The political upheavals in Eastern Europe and in Southern Africa in the period 1985 to 1995 have had serious implications for education and education systems in the countries involved. Education system experts have in the past used various theoretical tools to examine and explain the complex transformations that took place. Transitiology, social action theory and critical theory are some of these tools. An examination of these theoretical tools shows that they do not quite succeed in embracing and explaining all the factors at play in the transformations under investigation. This article proposes cultural-historical activity theory as a more suitable alternative, and illustrates this thesis with reference to the South African transition (1990 onwards).


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