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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versão On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versão impressa ISSN 0041-4751


AMERICA, Carina  e  LE GRANGE, Lesley. Decolonising the curriculum: Contextualising Economics and Business Studies Teaching. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2019, vol.59, n.1, pp.106-124. ISSN 2224-7912.

The decolonisation of education debate has (re)surfaced in South Africa. It is acknowledged that decolonisation is a complex and multi-layered process (see Jansen 2017; Le Grange 2016; Le Grange 2018; Venter 2018; Mbembe 2015; CHE 2017). Clarification and understanding of the complex concepts such as Africanisation, Eurocentrism, Westernisation, colonialism, coloniality, decolonialism and decoloniality also surfaced (see Jansen 2017; Le Grange 2016; Le Grange 2018; Maldonado-Torres 2007; Venter 2018; Mbembe 2015; CHE 2017). However, there is a silence in current discourses when it comes to teacher education (Sayed, Motala & Hoffman 2017) and specifically Economics Teaching and Business Studies Teaching (EBST), since the focus of the decolonisation debate has been on higher education in general. Teacher education is a field that functions at the interface of higher education and schooling and therefore the complexity and context of the school system (in)directly impact on teacher education programmes. Mbembe (2015:17) argues that most of the implications for decolonising higher education have to do with content and the extent of what is to be taught (curriculum reform). But, this does not mean that decolonising knowledge is simply about de-Westernisation or to reject Western epistemic contributions to the world (Mignolo 2011:82), or to reverse technological advancement, or simply turn back the clock and revert to old ways of doing (Le Grange 2016). Rather, it is about developing a "perspective which can allow us to see ourselves clearly, but always in relationship with ourselves and to other selves in the universe, non-humans included" (Mbembe 2015:24). The question is how the EBST curriculum, as part of an initial teacher education programme, can be decolonised. Not enough is known about the alignment of EBST's contextual and content knowledge in decolonising of teacher education. The aim of this article is to extend the conversation on decolonising of the curriculum by focusing on EBST disciplinary/content knowledge and the generation of contextually relevant knowledge. Young and Muller (2013:107-108) view disciplinary knowledge as "powerful knowledge" that is regarded as "reliable knowledge" and produced in "specialist knowledge communities" with "rules", "concepts" and "boundaries". Horden (2018) maintains that the powerfulness depicted by Young and Muller is also dependent on certain socio-epistemic and institutional conditions. Maistry and David (2018) are of the view that business education has shown an ideological bias, which is couched within a predominant neo-classical worldview that is mostly devoid of local (South) African realities. Moreover, firms in Africa have received little attention in mainstream business management literature (Barnard, Cuervo-Cazurra & Manning 2017). Barnard et al. (2017:3) argue that there are different dimensions of the business world at play in Africa that we are only beginning to understand. For example, traditional concepts such as ubuntu, an African concept which means "I only exist through my interaction with you", play an important institutional role in many African firms. Contemporary business in Africa takes place in a context where people are mindful of the relative recent history of colonialism (Barnard et al. 2017). The perpetuation of imperial or neo-colonial tendencies cannot be looked at in isolation from socio-economic realities. We argue that knowledge needs to be looked at in the context and history of colonialism and apartheid, and the overt and covert features of the (mis)management of power. The pre- and post-colonial eras have footprints in present day wealth inequality and a disposition that is rooted in institutions and organisations. Institutions and organisations are firmly entrenched in modern-day business and the economy, which enfold EBST content knowledge. Therefore the role of institutions is discussed, and examples put forward to illustrate its importance in EBST. We argue that insights into three aspects, namely, why history matters, asking guiding questions and modelling contextualized teaching, could provide guidelines for aligning contextual and content knowledge in teacher education. The first aspect relates to path dependency which broadly defines the way the patterns of the past tend to shape the future (North 1990). The history of colonial Africa has become a popular topic in the development and economics literature (Viegi 2016) and recently also in the literature on decolonisation of higher and school education in South Africa. At the higher education level broadly, there is the call for the recognition of African voices in the advancement and reproduction of knowledge (Mbembe 2015). At school level a specific call is made for the teaching of history from an Afrocentric view as opposed to a Eurocentric worldview (Motsega 2018). History is important since it gives insight into understanding current inequality and understanding of a particular mindset of pre- and post-colonial eras we are still troubled by today. The importance of history and the coloniality of power are also deeply interwoven in institutions and organisations. The second aspect of contextualized teaching is to ask guiding questions such as "why do countries differ so much in development?" (Acemoglu & Robinson 2012). EBST teacher educators are often themselves not critical about the formal curriculum so as to mediate learning that raises questions about the conduct and decision-making of corporates. As is the case with most subjects, the question is which content is considered to be the most impactful, how should it be taught and in which context. Asking pertinent questions about the impact of economic crises or key contemporary issues in (South) Africa, and challenging existing worldviews are important. The third aspect of contextualised teaching is to explicitly model contextualised thinking, which can be done through a path of learning which could facilitate "interculturality: a process of un-learn, re-learn and then move toward learning to undertaking" (De Carvalho & Florez-Florez 2014:134). Interculturality is an active process of transformation, which identifies the integrated relationships between persons or social groups of diverse worldviews and cultures. Selecting relevant EBST resource material is important, such as use of African case studies and the encouragement of Afrocentric innovations (Barnard et al. 2017). For years, the most accessible and dominant resources for EBST have been from a Western and/or Eurocentric worldview from which narratives revolve around a masculine, white, and liberal view of reality (Maistry & David 2018). Over the years, educators became dependent on these knowledge systems, epistemological traditions and curriculum materials. Applying knowledge that is also relevant to (South) African contexts can allow students to better make sense of the discipline within which they study. The implications for the EBST-curriculum is therefore two-fold: the inclusion of African perspectives and secondly, the integration of economic and business history in the curriculum.

Palavras-chave : initial teacher education; economics teaching; business studies teaching; coloniality; decolonisation; institutions; contextualization.

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