30 July 2014 Volume :2 Issue :40

New Direction for Education Research in South Africa

New Direction for Education Research in South Africa
The School of Education staff members at the 2014 South African Education Research Association (SAERA) Conference.

The South African Education Research Association (SAERA) - launched in 2013 to provide an overarching discursive space for galvanising education research in South Africa – hosts its second annual conference in Durban from 13 to 15 August.

The Conference, to be held under the theme: “Researching Education: Future Directions”, explores the current state of education research in South Africa and will look forward to the future directions research may take.

According to UKZN academic, Professor Michael Samuel, Chair of the Local Organising Committee, the Conference will provide a space to reflect on the nature, the purpose and the role of education research at present, and will look at new theoretical and methodological directions in the field.

‘Twenty years into the post-apartheid era we have to examine critically what heritages have been produced in the past  with respect to the different educational professional associations to which we belong, the different kinds of organisations that promoted education research and the ways in which these clustered and executed its framed mandates - often along very fragmented identities.

‘I think this particular Conference will allow the opportunity for people to draw on those heritages, mandates and identities and ask whether we should be forging new ones and forging new ways of dialoguing with each other,’ said Samuel.

‘We are in the process of becoming anew, walking and talking through our personalised histories of preferences, prejudices and new possibilities. In the past 20 years educational research endeavours concentrated  understandably on policy development, policy analysis and policy implementation.

‘This policy fetish gave rise to a strong emphasis on the unique varied contexts of situated educational practice, arguing for or against the intended laudable goals for education policy.

‘This spawned small-scale, individual case study research reporting. We are now posed to question whether a research-turn towards large-scale systemic analysis, larger-scale research projects mapping directions for systemic educational transformation, are necessary. The move away from descriptive studies to deeper and intertwined theoretical and practical analysis of educational achievements are needed at all levels of the system: at primary and secondary schools, in vocational and adult education; in Higher Education and Training contexts,’ said Samuel.

The Conference will also chart directions about how a moral commitment in line with Nelson Mandela’s legacy could be infused into educational research. The Conference will also exploit photographic displays as a visual means of alternatively communicating new ideas.

The main Conference programme themes are clustered around presentations related to Rurality and Rural development; Higher Education Quality and Transformation; Education Leadership and Management in Schools; Teacher Development in Professional Learning Communities and Adult Education and Vocational Learning, among others.

A pre-conference workshop for research development will take place on Tuesday, 12 August and will focus on building capacity of post graduate students and supervisors in educational research.

About 250 delegates are expected and keynote speakers include the Executive Director of the American Educational Research Association and the Secretary General of the World Education Research Association (WERA), Professor Felice J. Levine; Professor of Economics at the University of Stellenbosch, Profesor Servaas van der Berg; Professor of Educational Linguistics and the founding Director of the Centre for Education Practice Research (CEPR), Professor Elizabeth Henning; Head of the School of Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Technology Education at the University of the Free State, Professor Sechaba Mahlomaholo, and the Director of the Centre for Researching Education and Labour (REAL) at the University of the Witwatersrand, Professor Peliwe Lolwana.

* For further information about the Conference, contact: Professor Michael Samuel at tel:031-2601859 or email: Samuelm@ukzn.ac.za; or Dr Vimolan Mudaly at tel: 031-2603682 or email: Mudalyv@ukzn.ac.za

Melissa Mungroo


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