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29 May 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Pexels
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

Head of Department receives prestigious scholarship
2012-02-01

 

Prof. Hennie van Coller

Professor Hennie van Coller, Outstanding Professor and Head of our Department Afrikaans and Dutch, German and French, is the proud receiver of a EURIAS (European Institute for Advanced Studies) Scholarship. Prof. Van Coller is one of 17 candidates from all disciplines to be awarded the EURIAS Scholarship.

The scholarship includes a 10-month residency at one of the 14 institutions involved. Prof. Van Coller will be accommodated at the Flemish Academic Centre for Science and the Arts (VLAC) in Brussels.
 
Researchers from around the world were given the opportunity to apply for this prestige scholarship. It is awarded in the fields of the humanities and social sciences, as well as in other fields of science. Applicants had to submit an “innovative” research proposal, which demonstrates the ability to move further than disciplinary specialisation and also show an international alliance and quality of publications.
 
Van Coller is the editor of Perspektief en Profiel: ’n Afrikaanse Literatuurgeskiedenis. This literature study is used internationally and is currently being updated and reissued. He is also one of just a few contributors in Afrikaans literature to be instrumental in the new Cambridge South African Literary History edited by David Attwood and Derek Attridge.

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