Engaging with the Curriculum Change Framework is a fundamental step in an institutional dialogue about curriculum and the meanings and practices of curriculum change across disciplines.
To make the process inclusive and transparent, the UCT community has been invited to send comments on the framework to Anthea Metcalfe (Anthea.Metcalfe@uct.ac.za).
The messages that follow have been published as received. This page will be updated regularly as more messages come through.
Comment on the CCWG curriculum change document by a first-year student
The approach of academics and "decolonialists" to curriculum reform has been immature and unhelpful on both sides. An ironic observation given I'm only 20 years old! I am a first year student and while that may discredit me in the eyes of older students and academics, the frustrations that have led to their complacency or disenchantment have not been entrenched in me. Curriculum change and the process by which it is carried out must do two things: return to the basic ideas for which universities exist AND remain cognisant of the limitations of such change given the resources available and the opportunities that our context provides. I am not making an argument, but criticising both sides: reformers and the academics who are subject to reform.
At the least, a university must create graduates who can start businesses, conduct research and find work, in that order. But a university's role must expand to not only impart professional skills and knowledge. It should make us aware of the challenges in our society and the personal responsibility we have to use our education and means to improve the situation in which we all live. The education we receive must teach us that we are not limited nor defined by the circumstances in which we live, nor is our country. Although knowledge, access to opportunities, power and wealth are divided along racial, class, gender and other lines, we have the power to transcend these lines for our personal prosperity and the upliftment of our communities. These are the basic and shared values by which curriculum reform should be guided.
The report falls short of the above values in the following ways. The language of the CCWG report is aggressive, difficult to understand and divisive. The criticisms do not recognise that different disciplines work differently. The report is too eager for radical change without recognising that lasting positive change takes time. Although UCT is wealthy, some of the things requested in this report extend beyond being feasible, when they should instead maximise what we have. These flaws seriously hinder the effectiveness and damage the credibility of the curriculum reform process.
The approach of the CCWG report fails to recognise those values that lie at the base of African heritage and beliefs: respect, hardwork, collaboration, sharing and patience are the key to success. A few basic things must be recognised. Firstly academics did not receive their qualifications by chance, but worked hard for them. Secondly, although they are highly qualified, they are people with flaws and feelings. In African culture, the disrespect with which they have been treated by is not right and does not lead to collaboration. They have not been praised for what they have done right, given an adequate platform to engage meaningfully with the CCWG and other groups, nor does the framework provide any meaningful guidance to what they should fix.
Academics are also at fault, however, and this is particularly evident in how undergraduate studies are treated. Many academics delegate much of the teaching work to junior staff, in many subjects, the opinions of students are not always taken seriously, they are not receptive to challenges to their practices and there is a lack of enthusiasm to make the necessary changes. Although getting to each student as well as they need is very difficult (especially when compounded by inadequate pre-university preparation, poor study techniques and lifestyle choices), students rightly feel that academics do not care about them, are not willing to teach them more about Africa nor do they value African cultures and history. Thus, academics have not made the CCWG's work much easier nor have they satisfied our rightful dissatisfaction with what we are taught and how it is taught.
Both academics and reformers of the curriculum must return to basics, respect each other and realise that they influence the most powerful tool for social change in the world: education. They must take more responsibility for what they are doing and realise that the success and failure of our nation rests squarely in their ability to transcend petty politics and sectarian scruples, routine and radicalism.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Please view the republishing articles page for more information.