Revisiting Jürgen Habermas’s notion of communicative action and its relevance for South African school governance: can it succeed?
I apply as theoretical framework the Habermassian principles of ‘communicative action’ and ‘consensus’ through deliberation and reasoning. In particular, I focus on ‘rational’ and ‘argumentative’ communication through which school governance stakeholders could advance arguments and counter-arguments. I explore perceptions of educators concerning the role of learners, their experience and their democratic participation in school governance. I collected data using focus group discussions with educators in five selected schools in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. Data were analysed using natural meaning units which represented specific thoughts, feelings or perceptions as expressed by the participants. Results showed that educators were not very eager to accept learners as participants in the structure of school governance. Finally, I suggest that, through the Habermassian notion of communicative action, school governing body stakeholders will be f ree to exchange ideas, and that they will not only voice opinions, but also listen, because through the act of engaging and listening (communicative action) participants can be persuaded and their thinking can be transformed.
Keywords: communicative action; Department of Education; governance
framework; school governance