Curriculum Transformation Discussed at Seminar and Book Launch
To foster dialogue and discussion around curriculum decolonisation and transformation, UKZN’s Teaching and Learning Office (UTLO) recently hosted a seminar and a book launch at the University’s Westville campus.
Intellectual, activist, and founder of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University, Professor Gayatri Spivak, presented her talk titled “Curriculum Transformation in Higher Education in Asia and Africa: A Reality Check”.
The seminar was facilitated by Professor Sarojini Nadar, who is the Desmond Tutu Research Chair at the University of Cape Town.
Spivak argued that when looking at transforming the curriculum, we should always ask the question: ‘For whom was the curriculum designed? For whom has the curriculum changed?’
She added that when she, as an activist, looks at the situation among the lowest ranks of students in Africa and Asia, the generalisations about Higher Education seem to be unconnected to "reality" and therefore unlikely to produce the projected expectations.
The seminar was followed by the launch of the book titled: Disrupting Higher Education Curriculum: Undoing Cognitive Damage, which is edited by UKZN academics, Professor Michael Samuel, Dr Rubby Dhunpath and Professor Nyna Amin.
Discussion around the book took the form of panel discussions with the editors and the authors, chaired by Nadar. The authors of the book included, among others, Professor Mershen Pillay, Professor Thabo Msibi, Dr Langa Khumalo and Dr Craig Blewett.
Giving a brief background on how the book was conceptualised, Dhunpath said the book had its genesis around 10 years ago, starting as critical dialogues amongst academics and culminating in the edited volume. He added that the book was an attempt to understand the complex and elusive Higher Education curriculum. Spivak’s conceptualisation of “cognitive damage” inspired the necessary philosophical, theoretical and ideological tools needed to begin the process of curriculum theorisation and transformation.
Amin said that as editors, they spent hours debating what “cognitive damage” actually was in a Higher Education context and the extent to which we as academics are complicit in perpetuating damage on our students and ourselves.
Samuel said the concept of disruption at the end of the book pulls together a diverse set of voices and contemplates the notion of curriculum without borders. He said while the book does not offer concrete curriculum solutions, it reflects on the project of undoing cognitive damage, offering glimpses into what it means to redesign an alternative emancipatory curriculum in the 21st century.
The contributors, international scholars, emergent and expert researchers, from different nationalities, orientations and positionalities, offer a rich interdisciplinary commentary on Higher Education curriculum. The diverse contributions serves as a catalytic vehicle for transformational thinking about disrupting canonised rituals of Higher Education practice.
The book, published by SENSE Publishers is available on order at Adams Books and Exclusive Books.
Words by: Sithembile Shabangu