Education for sustainable development: exposing social sustainable policy imperatives for South African education
Teise, Kevin Lance Gustave
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Although South Africa embraces sustainable development (SD), sound SD cannot be realised amidst unsustainable social conditions. Whilst I acknowledge the interconnectedness of the various spheres of SD, in this study I only focused on social sustainable development (SSD). SSD calls for the transformation of society in accordance with common social values. Since the construction of a social sustainable South African society is imperative, it is accepted that the values which should guide societal transformation are articulated in the vision of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (Act 108 of 1996). As such, education ought to be transformed towards realising this vision for a social sustainable South African society. However, persistent social injustices suggest that South African education might not yet be transformed to fully realise the vision of a social sustainable society, but it rather sustains unsustainable social conditions. In order to realise a social sustainable society, education policy and practice have to be transformed towards education for social development (ESD). As an educational approach, ESD purposively pursues the aims and objectives of SD. The lack of research on ESD and the vision of a social sustainable South African society prompted me to explore the responsiveness of South African education policy and practice towards ESD. Based on this research aim, I conducted a critical policy analysis of the White Paper on Education and Training (1995) and the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement, Life Orientation Grades 10–12 (2011). This analysis was undertaken against the backdrop of a conceptual analysis of the concept ESD and the identification of various constitutive elements thereof. I used the identified constitutive elements to construct a working definition of ESD and to explore the implications of ESD for South African education policy and practice. Due to my belief in praxis as the intersection of practice and theory, I conducted a survey to explore the views of educators on the extent to which elements of ESD have filtered, via policy, to education practice. Finally I made recommendations to enhance ESD in order to contribute to a social sustainable South African society. Concerning the value and relevance of ESD for South Africa, I found the former to be potentially valuable in enhancing the orientation of education towards SD and SSD. The critical policy analysis revealed positive aspects about South African education policy documents which suggest their responsiveness to ESD. Also, the findings of the empirical research revealed the extent to which education practice is responsive to ESD. Whilst South African education appears to be infused with elements of ESD, the findings indicated that education policy and practice exhibit only partial responsiveness to some elements of ESD. I subsequently exposed particular contradictions and tensions which relate to the focus of South African education on empowerment, democracy and democratic citizenship; the exclusion of the oppressed and the marginalised; integration and holism; diverse teaching and learning strategies; lifelong learning as instrumental in societal change; quality education; deep transformative learning; and the global- and local relevance of education. Although it appears at face value that South African education is responsive towards ESD, these contradictions and tensions suggest that the education of the country is only partially responsive to ESD and as such, might not effectively contribute to the realisation of a social sustainable South African society. Informed by this conclusion, I made certain recommendations which could, on the one hand advance the orientation of South African education towards ESD, and on the other hand, redirect education to contribute to the realisation of a social sustainable South African society.
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