26 August 2015 Volume :3 Issue :39

UTLO Public Lecture Unpacks Curriculum Transformation in the Age of Globalisation

UTLO Public Lecture Unpacks Curriculum Transformation in the Age of Globalisation
Professor Nfah-Abbenyi presenting a public lecture at the Howard College Theatre.

Curriculum transformation in the age of globalisation was the focus of a public lecture hosted by the UKZN Teaching & Learning Office (UTLO) and presented by academic and author Professor Juliana Makuchi Nfah-Abbenyi, Professor in English and Comparative Literature at North Carolina University in the United States.

Curriculum transformation, a key imperative for Higher Education globally, requires researchers and educators to deliberate more earnestly on epistemology and pedagogy, especially when the complexity of historically and culturally- situated lived experiences is acknowledged.

In these deliberations, various questions may emerge, such as: how does one teach to transgress in a world where local, national, and global knowledge systems often seem to be in conflict; and how do narratives of everyday discourse, be it literary, scientific, cultural or political, inform systemic inequalities and challenge our approaches to identity, difference, agency and self-determination?

The public lecture was held to further this discourse and potentially unearth answers to these questions, and others.

Nfah-Abbenyi started the lecture, attended by more than 50 academics, with an extract from Women of the Lake, a short story about the 1986 disaster at Lake Nyos in Cameroon which destroyed entire communities within a 50km radius. Rescue and recovery efforts incorporated various stakeholders, including eyewitnesses, foreign scientists who ignore local indigenous knowledge in their bid to discover new “scientific” knowledge; national and international politicians and local survivors.

By reflecting upon the experiences of the stakeholders involved, she pointed out how the story offered the opportunity for scholars from various disciplines to engage in important scholarly and pedagogical discussions.

She also identified issues raised by the story to discuss key curriculum transformation matters including: critical discussions about students’ sense of self, place, and belonging; curricular needs that shape, influence and advance the mission of the University, college, and/or department; expected student learning outcomes; understanding the University’s mission and strategic plan and addressing how colleges’/departments’ degree plans fit into and further the University’s mission and strategic plan.

Concluding the discussion, Nfah-Abbenyi argued that curriculum transformation comprises three fundamental aspects: what we teach (content); how we teach (pedagogy); and above all, who makes the curricula decisions that shape our thinking and affect the future of our societies.

She further argued that for curriculum transformation to materialise, instructors and educators had to possess commitment to reforming the curriculum on a consistent basis, to advocate cross-disciplinary collaboration, and to be intentional about what we teach and how we teach historically and culturally-situated lived experiences.

Professor Priya Narismulu, Professor of English Studies at UKZN, who hosted Professor Nfah-Abbenyi, argued that neglecting indigenous knowledge and languages courted intellectual, disciplinary and institutional ignorance and obsolescence, because a key role and responsibility of the University was to link the local with the global and vice-versa.

Endorsing the views of Narismulu, Dr Rubby Dhunpath, Director of UKZN Teaching & Learning, called for a widening of the IKS discourse to embrace comparative perspectives, as opposed to essentialising it as discourse of resistance to “Western” epistemologies.

Professor Priya Narismulu and Ebrahim Adam

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