Tough questions asked at timely symposium

04 April 2011

Dr Joanne Hardman and DVC Prof Crain SoudienGlobal challenge: Speakers at the symposium included Dr Joanne Hardman and DVC Prof Crain Soudien.

The ESRC Rising Power Symposium 2011, a three-day symposium held at UCT in March on the state of education and labour in developing countries during times of economic change, was the third in a series of similar events, following meetings in São Paulo, Brazil, and Moscow, Russia.

This is an initiative of the Global Challenges and Social Change Initiative Network (a project led by Bath University in the UK) to examine the emergence of the ESRC's (the Economic and Social Research Council in the UK) so-called 'Rising Powers'. These include the BRICS nations of Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa.

"We are dedicated to understanding education," said Dr Joanne Hardman of UCT's School of Education, the South African representative of the initiative. "The questions we're posing are hard-hitting, but these are questions we have to answer."

These questions include: what changes are envisaged in educational provision to ensure economic sustainability of rapid growth? What will be the likely educational consequences and responses to social challenges such as the urban-rural divide, social and economic inequality, and access to education? And how will the lives of children be transformed as these changes are implemented?

Delegates attending the symposium included project leader Professor Harry Daniels from the UK, Professor Angela Lessa from Brazil and Professor Anna Shvedovskaya from Russia.

"South Africa is an enormously dramatic country," said deputy vice-chancellor Professor Crain Soudien in his opening address. "And we have sometimes shied away from discourse on the intensity of the question of development.

"I hope you come to an understanding of how education can begin to realise its historic promise."

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