Social justice as a conduit for broadening curriculum access: stories from classroom teachers
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It has become public knowledge that teachers have gradually been called to teach learners to world-class standards in order to enable them to participate actively in the global economy. This has fuelled a debate on how teachers should be prepared to fulfil this new role. In-service programmes on social justice and education have often been critiqued for failing to build teachers’ subject knowledge and pedagogical skills which are essential for facilitating learners’ access to the curriculum. This paper takes a position that teaching is an inescapably political act that often (if not always) involves ideas, power and access to learning and life opportunities. The study presented in this paper was designed to explore how teachers used social justice pedagogy as a conduit for making the curriculum accessible to all their learners. Data for this study were generated from self-reflexive action research reports from a sample of 20 teachers submitted as part of the assessment requirements for the Advanced Certificate in Education (ACE) programme. The data were used to understand 1) How teachers conceptualised and understood social justice, and 2) How teachers utilised these understandings in broadening curriculum access for their learners. The study found that participants conceptualised and understood social justice on a basis of a philosophy of education as transformation, which often called on them to traverse political borders. For these teachers, teaching for social justice meant that education was construed as a means to break the cycle of social ills, victimhood and hegemony. The study presented some emerging thoughts on how knowledge about social justice in education could be deployed by teachers to broaden access to and in the curriculum.