Higher education in South Africa, as elsewhere in the world, is under pressure to reinvent and transform itself. Traditionally it has enjoyed the financial support of the government and has also enjoyed an autonomous existence. In South Africa, since the demise of apartheid, the education policy terrain has shifted remarkably fast and policies have required that universities respond to a national plan for higher education that commits universities to become cost- effective, massified institutions opening access to all who were historically excluded due to apartheid’s policies of educational exclusion. Universities in the higher education sector as a whole are required to generate strategies that broaden access routes for disadvantaged groups and at the same time consider curriculum strategies that ensure success and inclusivity to such groups after access. In addition to these daunting challenges, the higher education sector has experienced a decrease in government funding and an increase in government control. Student-led protest around the cost of higher education has also introduced a new kind of pressure point on universities. These shifts are in sharp contrast to the more elite traditional model of higher education in South Africa, which has been mostly residential institutions focusing on full-time study, with lectures, seminars, and laboratory demonstrations as the dominant forms of pedagogy. This model is also based on sets of internal rules designed to support staff to spearhead the knowledge-production processes. They function best under stable environments and tend to meander and falter when the foundations for stability are threatened.
Ruksana Osman and Felix Maringe
Begoña Vigo Arrazola
Research feedback is given in very different ways with different intended functions and effects. From a positivist or reconstructed positivist perspective, for instance, feedback is used primarily as a strategy for improving research validity, while from a critical perspective the intention is to induce deeper and sustained levels of participation, critique, and influence toward a purpose, ultimately, of social transformation. From a philosophical foundation this aim allies with the significance of not only understanding contemporary educational empirical reality under neoliberal forms of capitalism but also developing critical consciousness for the transcendence and transformation of this condition. From within a critical education perspective, research feedback therefore sets out to engage schools and their communities, including teachers and parents, as co-researchers and reflective agents capable of understanding and changing education and its social relations, not only being recipients of it as in Freire’s notion of a banking concept of education. Change is encouraged both within the framework of the investigation and with respect to broader social relations.
Jill M. Bystydzienski
Despite recently improved numbers of women and other historically underrepresented groups in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in U.S. higher education, women continue to lag significantly in comparison with men in many STEM disciplines. Female participation is especially low in computer science, engineering, and physics and at the advanced levels in academic STEM—at full professor and in administrative (department head or chair, dean) positions. While there have been various theoretical approaches to explain why this gender gap persists, a particularly productive strand of research indicates that deeply rooted gendered, racialized, and heteronormative institutional structures and practices act as barriers to a more significant movement of diverse women into academic STEM fields. More specifically, this research documents that a hostile academic climate, exclusionary practices, and subtle forms of discrimination in hiring and promotion, as well as lack of positive recognition of female scientists’ work, account for relatively low numbers of women in fields such as engineering, physics, and computer science. Nevertheless, since the early 2000s, numerous initiatives have been undertaken in U.S. higher education to remedy the situation, and some progress has been made through programs that attempt to transform STEM departments and colleges into more inclusive and equitable academic spaces.
Alpesh Maisuria and Dennis Beach
As described in Beach and Dovemark’s 2007 book, Education and the Commodity Problem, critical researchers have identified two fundamental roles for modern-day schools within capitalist states. These are the ideological and material roles and function, where schools produce ideologically compliant workers and consumers for a corporatist economy on the one hand, this is partly through a teaching and a curriculum, which is often hidden and informal; and, on the other form part of a corporate business plan for the accumulation of private capital in the welfare sector through mass outsourcing of welfare-State education provision and the wholesale commodification of education as a public service. This article presents a research method for investigating education in these circumstances. It is a method with a philosophical foundation not only for understanding contemporary educational empirical reality under neoliberal forms of capitalism, but also for developing critical consciousness for the transcendence and transformation of this condition toward a more just form of political economy and human existence. This research method draws from critical realism and its concept of explanatory critique as a way to forge a scientifically robust Marxist critical ethnography. In relation to this, the description of the method accompanies an overview of some of the basic principles and broadly accepted possibilities of and for ethnography and critical ethnography, followed by a presentation of what Marxist critical ethnography is and how Marxist critical ethnography functions as explanatory critique, respectively. This entails description of what explanatory critique is, and how it can be used to develop a philosophy of social science and an ontological base for ethnography. The aforementioned components together expand on a historical, theoretical, conceptual, and political development of ethnography as part of a Marxist approach to research and practice for social transformation.
Julie Gorlewski and Isabel Nuñez
Curriculum, while often conceived as a static entity delivered as a neutral set of facts arranged in disciplinary categories, is, in reality, a pedagogical artifact—a product generated as a result of decisions made by a range of stakeholders who represent different cultural imperatives linked to contested perspectives about the purposes of school. Students’ and teachers’ experiences of school, then, are dialogic performances of a curriculum that promotes various levels of power and privilege, as well as understandings of equity and diversity. Therefore, whether or not it is recognized, the curriculum delivered in schools serves to either maintain or interrupt the status quo. Given the number of students who participate in public education, curriculum contributes a great deal to shaping the national narrative. Curriculum contributes to social movements, and the nature of the curriculum determines the direction of the movement. Since curriculum development and implementation involves myriad decisions, influence is wielded by those with decision-making power. Social status and cultural capital, both of which are historically linked with political power, largely determine who makes curricular decisions, as well as how decisions are made. These conditions pose challenges for those who have been historically marginalized within educational institutions. Despite obstacles related to systemic inequities, different forms of curriculum can and do contribute to the creation and perpetuation of social movements. Moreover, educators who understand how educational institutions function, how curricular changes occur, and how curriculum can be a source of and vehicle for change can create conditions for transformative activist curricular movements.