DRAFT FRAMEWORK DOCUMENT
REIMAGINING CURRICULA FOR A JUST UNIVERSITY
IN A VIBRANT DEMOCRACY
Work stream on curriculum transformation
at the University of Pretoria
Over the past 22 years, significant progress has been made in transforming South Africa into a democracy in the image of our Constitution. Nevertheless, exclusion, marginalisation and social injustice remain stark. The Higher Education sector mirrors these challenges, which concerted action by students across universities in the past year has placed firmly on the national agenda for immediate attention. Imperatives have been identified that are interlinked and include the transformation of demographics, institutional culture, governance and curricula.
Decolonising and democratising the curriculum has become a central rallying cry. While curricula were changed with the advent of democracy in the 1990s, it is clear that much more needs to be done. This is especially true if transformation is understood as moving from one configuration to another, characterised by on-going rethinking and renewal in the pursuit of social and environmental justice – not only in Higher Education but also in the country at large.
The UP community shares a deep desire to move to a just and equitable future. This desire stems partly from our acknowledgment of the history of UP, including the corrosive legacy of Christian National Education and the university’s active role in the production and maintenance of the systems of colonialism and apartheid, as advanced by colonial and Afrikaner nationalist ideologues who worked as academics at UP.
Out of a lekgotla between student societies and UP management in March 2016, three work streams were formed. Apart from the work streams on language policy and institutional culture, we have embarked on a process of critical consideration of the meaning and shape that curriculum transformation should take. A final definition of transformation of curriculum is not supplied in this document. Instead, flowing from discussions in the work stream, four drivers are provided to guide an inclusive process of engagement on what curriculum transformation entails in this context.
The approach adopted is cognisant of the differences in disciplines across UP’s nine faculties, including the requirements of professional bodies. Nevertheless, the point of departure is that every field of study holds implications that either advance or deter human and non-human life, whether in engineering, medicine, law, agriculture or business, to name but a few. Therefore, academic endeavour, prominently visible in curricula, must be in service of the public good and the actualisation of human potential, buttressed by the Constitution.
The four drivers of curriculum transformation, are:
- Responsiveness to social context
- Epistemological diversity
- Renewal of pedagogy and classroom practices
- An institutional culture of openness and critical reflection.
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