An exploration of higher education teachers’ experience of decolonising the Bachelor of Education honours curriculum at a South African university

  • Preya Pillay, Dr University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
  • Eben Swanepoel, Dr University of the Free State, South Africa
Keywords: Decolonisation, Higher education, Curriculum reform, Foucauldian discourse, Teacher induction, Indigenous knowledge

Abstract

The ongoing 2015/16 student unrest (#RhodesMustFall; #FeesMustFall) has displayed heightened calls for the decolonising of the curriculum in the higher education (HE) sector. Students have highlighted in the recent protests that the curriculum remains largely Eurocentric and continues to reinforce white and Western dominance. In response to the need for a decolonised curriculum, higher education lecturers at a university in South Africa embarked on a Bachelor of Education honours writing exercise workshop with the purpose of decolonising the curriculum. This entailed rethinking ways of knowing and a deconstruction of old epistemologies, with the aim that transformation in the classroom would be reflected in what is taught and how it is taught, as a means to ripple through to grassroots classroom level. This study explores, through using Foucauldian discourse as theoretical frame, the experiences of eight lecturers at a university involved in teacher induction of honours-level education students. This link serves as a fundamental basis between societal change that speaks to creating a space for the African child in challenging teacher conceptions of power and privilege and rethinking the norms of praxis that manifest when teachers enter the classroom. Semi-structured interviews were transcribed and thematically analysed to gain understanding as to the prominent methods used and the dominant conceptualisation of what decolonising the curriculum entails. Findings suggest a need to return to grassroots classroom level as a means to involve stakeholders, such as teachers and tertiary students, in shaping the curriculum. It is further found that lecturers lack the means to engage with a solely Afrocentric theoretical basis and that Western discourse remains a prominent source of knowledge due to the lack of indigenous knowledge systems and research.

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Published
2019-04-16
Section
Articles