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close this bookTeacher Education for Transformation: The Case of the University of the Western Cape, South Africa (CIE, 2002, 73 p.)
close this folderChapter 2: The Institutional location of the HDE Programme
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View the document2.1 The University of the Western Cape
View the document2.2 The Faculty of Education

2.2 The Faculty of Education

The recent history of the Faculty of Education is intimately tied up with the anti-apartheid and social reconstructionist history of UWC. In the 1970s the dominant orientation in the Faculty was that of Fundamental Pedagogics, while in the 1980s the Faculty began increasingly to identify with the People's Education for People's Power movement, a national resistance movement seeking to establish a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic political and educational system in the country.

The dominant approach to teacher education in some universities and in the majority of colleges, even in the early 1990s, was Fundamental Pedagogics (Sieborger and Kenyon, 1992; Hofmeyr and Hall, 1995), described as follows:

Fundamental Pedagogics is the dominant theoretical discourse in South African teacher education. It provides little illumination of the present social and educational order, of possible alternatives to that order or how teachers might contribute to transformation. By excluding the political as a legitimate dimension of theoretical discourse, Fundamental Pedagogics offers neither a language of critique nor a language of possibility (Enslin, 1990: 78).

Enslin explains how, through an elaborate logic, Fundamental Pedagogics identified itself as a neutral science, cordoned off from questions around ideology or politics. By separating pedagogy from any discussion of power and privilege, Fundamental Pedagogics managed to create a discourse of silence and acceptance about the role of education in society. An astounding picture presents itself, of generations of young people who were living under a system of racism and domination, learning not to ask questions about the link between educational policies and practices and the oppressive policies ruling their lives. (That this was not entirely successful is, of course, illustrated by the crucial role played by educational institutions in the history of resistance in the country).

Enslin herself notes the different discourse at UWC:

There the theoretical discourse could be described as eclectic, offering critical perspectives on education through liberal and Marxist perspectives. It is significant that both these perspectives treat the political as central to a critical understanding of schooling in South Africa and to future possibilities for South African education (1990: 88).

An extract from the Faculty mission statement of 1992 gives some illustration of the spirit of the Faculty at the time:

As the Faculty of Education at UWC we aim:

- to contribute to the development of educational theory and practice in a rigorous academic and professional way

- to participate, in a spirit of challenge, in the reconstruction and development of education in South Africa to redress historical inequities ...

We locate our work in the social, cultural, political, economic and ecological development of the region, the country and the continent (Mission statement, 1992).

Expanding student numbers in the Faculty in the late 1980s meant that many new staff were appointed in the early 1990s, so that by the mid-1990s there were forty members on the academic staff. Many of these people had been involved in the People's Education movement, and they provided the catalyst for much of the new thinking in the Faculty.

At the time of writing (2000), the Faculty of Education was facing a new set of historical circumstances. Many staff had moved into other institutions or into government or parastatal structures and, due to fiscal restraints and dropping enrolments at the university, these staff were not always replaced. Increased competitiveness for a dwindling market of Education students placed UWC at a disadvantage to its neighbouring universities, where better facilities attracted the more academically-able students. The student body increasingly was drawn from the poorer sections of society, in particular from rural African backgrounds, where inadequate schooling meant that students were often academically weak. Nevertheless, the spirit of UWC was still very much alive, as was evidenced by the comment at a Faculty review of the HDE programme, where lecturers remarked that one of the strengths of the Faculty was: “Our strength lies mainly in our commitment and in our critical edge, and the fact that we have our heads in the clouds but our feet on the ground!” (Final Year Teacher Education programme review, 2000, p.3).