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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

Prof. Jonathan Jansen honoured for transforming education
2010-04-16

Prof. Jonathan Jansen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa   
Prof. Jonathan Jansen
The Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Free State (UFS), Prof. Jonathan Jansen, will be awarded an honorary doctorate by the Cleveland State University in the United State of America.

“The Board of Trustees and the Faculty of Cleveland State University have voted to award you this degree in recognition of your outstanding contribution towards the transformation of education, politics and diversity for the citizens and students of South Africa and the world,” Ronald Berkman, President of the Cleveland State University, stated in the letter he wrote to Prof. Jansen.

The degree, an Honorary Doctor of Higher Education Administration, will be conferred on him in Cleveland on 15 May 2010.

Prof. Jansen has also received recognition of another form. His book, Knowledge in the Blood: Confronting Race and the Apartheid Past, was among the six books that were selected for outstanding recognition awards by the American Educational Research Association (AERA), in the category: “Decolonizing the curriculum conversation”.

The book was also listed among the best 31 books of 2009 by the Library Journal - the oldest and most respected publication covering the library field.

The outstanding recognition awards recognize books that make a vital contribution to Curriculum Studies.

The six books were among 30 that were submitted for the Outstanding Book Award won by Peter Taubman’s Teaching by Numbers.

Media Release
Issued by: Mangaliso Radebe
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2828
Cell: 078 460 3320
E-mail: radebemt@ufs.ac.za  
16 April 2010
 

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