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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

UFS Council approves a new Language Policy
2016-03-11

The Council of the University of the Free State (UFS) approved a new Language Policy with an overwhelming majority during its meeting held on the Qwaqwa Campus today (11 March 2016).

In the newly approved policy, the university commits to embed and enable a language-rich environment committed to multilingualism, with particular attention to Afrikaans, Sesotho, isiZulu, and other languages represented on the three campuses situated in Bloemfontein and Qwaqwa.

Based on the core values of inclusivity and multilingualism, the following principles in the newly approved policy were approved by the Council:

  1. English will be the primary medium of instruction at undergraduate and postgraduate level on the three campuses situated in Bloemfontein and Qwaqwa.
  2. Multilingualism will be supported among other activities by an expanded tutorial system especially designed for first-year students.
  3. In particular professional programmes such as teacher education and the training of students in Theology who wish to enter the ministry in traditional Afrikaans speaking churches, where there is clear market need, the parallel medium English-Afrikaans and Sesotho/Zulu continues. This arrangement must not undermine the values of inclusivity and diversity endorse by the UFS.
  4. The primary formal language of the university administration will be English with sufficient flexibility for the eventual practice of multilingualism across the university.
  5. Formal student life interactions would be in English, while multilingualism is encouraged in all social interactions.

“This is a major step forward for the UFS. I commend Council for their constructive and positive manner in which the discussion took place,” says Judge Ian van der Merwe, Chairperson of the UFS Council.

The university furthermore committed in the newly approved policy to:

  1. Ensuring that language is not a barrier to equity of access, opportunity and success in academic programmes or in access to university administration.
  2. Promoting the provision of academic literacy, especially in English, for all undergraduate students.
  3. Ensuring that language is not used or perceived as a tool for social exclusion of staff and/or students on any of its campuses.
  4. Promoting a pragmatic learning and administrative environment committed to and accommodative of linguistic diversity within the regional, national and international environments in which the UFS operates.       
  5. Contributing to the development of Sesotho and isiZulu as higher education language within the context of the needs of the university’s different campuses.
  6. The continuous development of Afrikaans as an academic language.
  7. Recognising and promoting South African Sign Language and Braille.

Today’s approval of a new policy comes after a mandate was given to the university management on 5 June 2015 by Council to conduct a review of the institutional Language Policy through a comprehensive process of consultation with all university stakeholders. A Language Committee was subsequently established by the University Management Committee (UMC) to undertake a comprehensive review of the parallel-medium policy, which was approved by Council on 6 June 2003. The committee also had to make recommendations on the way forward with respect to the university's Language Policy. During its meeting on 4 December 2015, Council adopted guidelines from the report of the Language Committee regarding the development of a new policy for the university.

The newly approved Language Policy will be phased in as from January 2017 according to an Implementation Plan.

Released by:
Lacea Loader (Director: Communication and Brand Management)
Email: news@ufs.ac.za

Related articles:

http://www.ufs.ac.za/templates/news-archive-item?news=6567 (26 November 2015)
http://www.ufs.ac.za/templates/news-archive-item?news=6540 (28 October 2015)
http://www.ufs.ac.za/templates/news-archive-item?news=6521 (20 October 2015)
http://www.ufs.ac.za/templates/news-archive-item?news=6469 (30 August 2015)
http://www.ufs.ac.za/templates/news-archive-item?news=6444 (25 August 2015)

 
Released by:
Lacea Loader (Director: Communication and Brand Management)
Telephone: +27(0)51 401 2584 | +27(0)83 645 2454
Email: news@ufs.ac.za | loaderl@ufs.ac.za
Fax: +27(0)51 444 6393

 

 


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