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Prof Melanie Walker
Fostering human capabilities in universities may potentially transform education, says Prof Melanie Walker.

Education is at the centre of human life, and has the potential to be a crucial support for democratic life. Prof Melanie Walker’s recent research paper strikes a balance in dealing with people, education and the implications for democracy through the lens of human capabilities theory and practice and her own research.

People and papers

In her capacity as the SARChI Chair in the Higher Education and Human Development Research Programme at the University of the Free State (UFS), Prof Walker recently published a paper titled: Defending the Need for a Foundational Epistemic Capability in Education. It appeared in the special issue of the Journal of Human Development and Capabilities in honour of renowned Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen’s 85th birthday.

Nurturing epistemic justice

Within the context of existing literature such as that of Sen’s concern with the value of education on the one hand, and public reasoning on the other, Prof Walker argues for a foundational epistemic capability to shape the formal education landscape – as well as quality in education – by fostering inclusive public reasoning (including critical thinking) in all students. It would contribute to what Sen calls the ‘protective power of democracy’ and shared democratic rights, which, he argues, are strongly missed when most needed.

“Sen’s approach asks us to build democratic practices in our university and in our society in ways which create capabilities for everyone. If our students learn public reasoning in all sorts of spaces in university, including the pedagogical, they may carry this into and back to society,” she said.

Educating for equality

Empowering society and fighting for justice are some of the crucial contributions made possible through fostering the epistemic capability of all students. “The capability requires that each student is recognised as both a knower and teller, a receiver and a contributor in critical meaning and knowledge, and an epistemic agent in processes of learning and critical thinking,” states Prof Walker.

In a young democracy like South Africa’s, inclusive public reasoning becomes all the more essential in order to achieve equality, uphold rights and sustain democracy as enshrined in the constitution, thereby improving people’s lives. 

News Archive

UFS's international advisory board holds first meeting
2009-11-28

Members of the International Advisory Board of the UFS in discussion with Prof. Dennis Francis (right), who is appointed as Dean of the Faculty of Education from the beginning of 2010. With him are Prof. Alice Pell from Cornell University in the USA and Dr Uri Ofir from Evalnet in Switzerland.
Photo:  Leatitia Pienaar


The International Advisory Board of the University of the Free State (UFS) had its first meeting on the Main Campus in Bloemfontein this week. It coincided with the launch of the six research clusters of the UFS.

Prof. Aldo Stroebel, Director: Internationalisation at the UFS, says internationalisation is a strategic priority to reach the University’s strategic goals. Internationalisation will bring a global awareness at all levels and will serve as a co-shaping factor and an instrument to produce well-rounded, internationally competent staff and students. It will also be an instrument to promote diversity, advance the UFS’s international standing and initiate and promote international collaborative research.

The advisory board will advise and guide the UFS leadership in the internationalisation process. He said the board would provide strategic guidance to the internationalisation efforts of the UFS and bring cutting-edge expertise to bear on the internationalisation policies, strategies and action plans of the institution.

Its members will help ensure that the University leadership is aware of relevant international trends and opportunities, and the board will use their experience to advise on appropriate actions. They will also act as advocates for the University in their own spheres of influence.

The board consists of Dr Jane Knight of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Canada; Prof. Alice Pell of the Cornell University, USA; Prof. Masafumi Nagao of the International Christian University, Japan; Dr Khotso Mokhele of Impala Platinum Holdings, South Africa; Prof. Joseph Stetar of the Seton Hall University, USA; and Dr Uri Ofir of Evalnet, Switzerland. Prof. Jonathan Jansen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS, is the Chairperson of the board.

Prof. Stroebel says the UFS is honoured to have people of international standing and who are highly regarded in various fields on the board to guide the institution in its internationalisation endeavours.

Media release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Deputy Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: loaderl.stg@ufs.ac.za  
27 November 2009
 

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