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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 first tertiary institution in SA to form association with the Arbinger Institute
2008-02-15

 

 A two-day seminar entitled: "The Choice and The Choice @ Work" was recently presented in Bloemfontein to companies in the Free State region. Here are, from the left: Mr Braam Botha (Well @ Work), Mr Jozef Myburgh (Telkom), and Dr Cobus Pienaar (from the Department of Industrial Psychology at the UFS and facilitator of the Arbinger Programme).
Photo: Lacea Loader

 

UFS first tertiary institution in SA to form association with the Arbinger Institute

The University of the Free State (UFS) has become the first tertiary institution in the country to form an association with the Arbinger Institute in the United States of America (USA).

“The Arbinger Institute is a global management training and consulting firm applying the implications of self-deception and its solutions to all aspects of organisational performance. Our association with this Institute is a major step for the development of leadership in the country,” says Mr Danie Jacobs, Head of the Centre for Business Dynamics at the UFS.

Dr Cobus Pienaar, from the Department of Industrial Psychology at the UFS, is currently the only licensed facilitator to present Arbinger’s work in South Africa. Dr Pienaar presents The Choice and The Choice @ Work programme on behalf of the Centre for Business Dynamics, under the banner of the UFS School of Business.

According to Mr Jacobs, the programme has already had successes in South Africa. “Dr Pienaar presented the first programme last year in Bloemfontein and Pretoria to leaders from various companies. The feedback on the application of the programme to the South African business environment was phenomenal,” says Mr Jacobs.

The Arbinger Institute’s change work grows out of the scholarly work of philosopher Terry Warner. With an international team of scholars, Warner has broken new ground in solving the age-old problem of self-deception, or what was originally called “resistance”.

“This phenomenon is at the heart of much organisational failure. It is the reason why many organisational problems seem so intractable at their core – they are in self-deception; they resist solution,” says Mr Jacobs.

Media release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: loaderl.stg@ufs.ac.za  
15 February 2008

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