Exploring a Knowledge-focused Trajectory for Researching Environmental Learning in the South African Curriculum

  • Ingrid Schudel


This paper explores the past twenty years of environmental learning in the South African curriculum in order to consider how one might best research a knowledge focus within the Fundisa for Change national teacher education programme. In exploring this knowledge focus, the paper draws on international  literature. It also extensively, but not exclusively, draws on two key publications which informed the 2002 and the 2011 curriculum changes in South Africa. The paper draws on  social realist curriculum theory, underpinned by critical realism. This theoretical perspective, which includes Bernstein’s pedagogic device and particularly  recontextualisation of knowledge across the pedagogical landscape, provides a language of description for critically reviewing knowledge and environmental  learning. In  particular, the review develops five perspectives on environmental knowledge as it pertains to curriculum which include:
• Perspective #1) new environmental knowledge in the curriculum;
• Perspective #2) environmental knowledge in local and global contexts;
• Perspective # 3) dynamic knowledge for open-ended and futuristic thinking;
• Perspective #4) depth and complexity of environmental knowledge; and
• Perspective #5) combining discipline-specific core knowledge and skills with a systems perspective.
The paper argues for a re-emphasis and review of new environmental knowledge and learning support materials. It suggests a consideration of context-rich but not context-bound explorations of local and global environmental issues and the need for adopting open-ended and futuristic thinking in the context of the dynamism of environmental knowledge. This involves exploring systems of meaning and structures of knowledge in dealing with the complexity of environmental knowledge and acknowledging the challenges of a transformative ideology within such a complex knowledge system. Additionally the paper argues for creative ways of working across disciplines to develop better understanding of discipline-specific  concepts and their potential to contribute to meaningful learning. The paper concludes by suggesting a research trajectory for future environmental education research in the context of the new South African Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) extending the emphasis in this paper on the official recontextualising field, to fields across the entire pedagogic device.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2411-5959
print ISSN: 1810-0333