UKZN Academic on World Canvass Panel
Education academic, Dr Angela James, was a member of the World Canvass panel segment at a gathering in the United States titled: Why School? International Perspectives on Education and Social Transformation.
World Canvass, produced by International Programs at the University of Iowa, explores topics that are international in scope and central to the understanding of the global landscape.
The host, Ms Joan Kjaer, and expert panellists discussed school and educational systems around the world, and how schools are both products of society and a process for effecting changes in society.
Panellists answered questions such as: “What is the purpose of schooling in society?” and “What are the relationships between educational reform, globalisation, and social change?”
James spoke about the quality of schools during and post-apartheid in South Africa, saying there were highly-resourced schools and extremely poorly-resourced schools. ‘There are still very poorly-resourced schools in South Africa. When a child falls in a pit latrine because of inadequate sanitation at a school, that is really unacceptable. It shouldn’t happen - not in this day and age, especially since we are over 20 years into our democracy.’
She noted developments in the curriculum that now catered for indigenous knowledge systems and gender, and discussed the issue of private versus government schools.
Looking at the performance of learners from under-resourced schools where individuals often excelled, James questioned whether resources really made a difference or whether the presence of resources was just an enabler for the performance to just be a bit better. She said a focus on the preparedness and commitment of teachers, including the intense relationship with learners, was important.
‘It’s important that we understand who our students are and what it is we could be working with in order for us to enhance them to levels where they can really fly,’ said James.
Words: Melissa Mungroo
Photograph: Benjamin Partridge