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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

Learners to benefit from UFS Partnership for academic excellence
2013-02-21

 

Thokoana Makaota learners listening attentively during the launch of the partnership with the UFS.
Photo: Thabo Kessah
21 February 2013

The university’s quest for academic excellence in the education system paved the way for the Faculty of Education on the Qwaqwa Campus to enter into a mutually beneficial partnership with a local school, Thokoana Makaota Secondary.

This recently launched partnership will enable learners who are currently in grades 10-12 to attend supplementary classes on the campus.

“The aim of this partnership is to expose learners from the school to adequate tuition in subjects that are generally perceived as difficult. We want them to gain as much confidence as possible when tackling these subjects, therefore they will be using our well-equipped laboratories and classes”, said Dr Lekhooe Letsie, the Programme Coordinator.

“We will also benefit from this as our own final-year education students will act as tutors. This will help them gain confidence before they venture into the real job market next year,” Dr Letsie said.

Dr Letsie also revealed that the student-teachers will be closely monitored by their mentors to ensure maximum success.

The school’s Deputy Principal and UFS alumnus, Serame Sello, said that the school felt humbled by this gesture from the UFS.

“We are confident that this working relationship will yield very positive results for the school and enable us to improve on the 84% pass rate obtained in 2012,” Sello said.

“We did not do so well in the subjects that will be covered here. For instance, we obtained 43% and 61% in Physical Science and Mathematics respectively, but with this partnership we hope for improved results this year,” said Sello.

Other subjects to be covered include Geography, Life Sciences, Economics, and Accounting. The different grades will commute to and from campus on different afternoons.

 

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