A Synoptic View of Curriculum Studies in South Africa

  • Ashwani Kumar


This paper intends to provide a synoptic view of curriculum studies in South Africa as portrayed in William F. Pinar’s Curriculum Studies in South Africa: Intellectual Histories, Present Circumstances (2010). Reading the intellectual histories and analyses of present circumstances, as discussed by the South African curriculum theorists in aforementioned volume, I felt related having coming of age India, having studied and taught in Indian educational institutions. Both South Africa and India were British colonies, faced severe social, political and economic discriminations, and have been going through similar educational reforms. For example, postapartheid curriculum reforms in South Africa (epitomized by Curriculum 2005) and paradigm shift in Indian curriculum (due to National Curriculum Framework 2005) under the leadership of Professor Krishna Kumar, show their deep faith in constructivism, faith that has drawn strong criticism. The primary criticism is the uncritical import of constructivist educational philosophy from western world in the face of particular sociological, historical, economic, and political contexts, among them poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition, underdeveloped school infrastructure, and poorly trained teachers, which are likely to prove constructivist principles of learning antithetical in both nations. The analysis of the current policies makes one realize that the political decolonization has not brought with it psychological decolonization in both the nations. Even worse is the invasion of neo-liberal and neo-colonial policies of the West that wants to reduce education to the level of a commodity instead of a rich experience that can help the present and future generations to transform the deeply discriminated social landscape.

I have divided my paper in three major parts: historical legacies, contemporary circumstances, and future orientations. The first part traces and analyses the colonial roots of the contemporary field; the second part discusses the post-apartheid nature of the field dominated by the progressivism-constructivism-outcome-based education nexus; and the final part deals with future directions for the field as suggested by the South African curriculum theorists.