A proposal for an epistemically diverse curriculum for South African higher education in the 21st Century

  • K Luckett University of Natal


I begin this article by taking stock of international trends which impact on the higher education curriculum. I then briefly assess the South African responses to these challenges in the light of recent curriculum reforms. In particular, I attempt to assess the gains made for curriculum development in South African higher education by the imposition of the SAQA interim registration requirements and the outcomes-based method of curriculum design. I also note the gaps not addressed by the SAQA reforms and suggest that the SAQA reforms lay the HE curriculum open to the global trends of the instrumentalisation and marketisation of knowledge. I also address two other internal epistemological challenges to the HE curriculum, namely post-modernism and scientism. I then propose an epistemically diverse curriculum in which four ways of knowing and learning are developed for all HE curricula. These are the traditional cognitive learning of propositional knowledge; learning by doing for the application of disciplinary knowledge; learning experientially and fourthly developing epistemic cognition so as to be able to think reflexively and contextually about one's learning. I suggest that such a curriculum could address both the local and global dimensions of a higher education curriculum and hold a necessary balance between Mode 1 and 2 knowledge production. Furthermore, I believe that one of the central educational challenges currently facing HE practitioners is the integration of the various desirable generic skills into a traditionally content-based curriculum. I suggest that, if learners are introduced to all four ways of knowing and learning, these generic skills (both transferable and transferring skills) can be appropriately integrated into the HE curriculum. The article concludes by considering some of the key issues involved in implementing an epistemically diverse curriculum.

South African Journal of Higher Education Vol.15(2) 2001:49-61

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eISSN: 1011-3487