Grappling with new education challenges as a result of Covid-19
Education authorities struggle to resolve the three-way challenge: to not have the academic year lost, still achieve a measure of quality in learning outcomes, as well as minimise the risk of infections.
On the face of it, these challenges represent the core of the problem that education in South Africa faces during the pandemic.
A massive attempt to move to remote and online methods of teaching and learning, which is widely considered as the ultimate solution to facilitate and continue meaningful teaching and learning, is under way and gaining momentum.
Moreover, the quick embrace of remote learning as a solution, notwithstanding the need for urgent solutions, presents deeper challenges as to how a society enables its citizens to learn.
It’s a fine balance between honouring constitutional commitments to freedom and justice while trying to negate the dangers associated with physical distancing and human disconnection.
One way to approach the layers of reflection and action that education must now grapple with, is to reflect on the three-way question of being, knowing and doing - a way of unpacking what we experience daily as a “metatheoretical inquiry”.
This means that one attempts to make sense of the lived realities of society and how you relate to these by exploring three aspects of our reality at the same time.
Firstly, such an investigation will question who we are and will become, referred to as an ontology.
Secondly, what and how we come to know and hold as truth, referred to as an epistemology, and thirdly, what we do and how we act on our realities, referred to as the methodology.
The three-way challenge that authorities, schools and campuses now emphasise, even though important, represents only a methodological response to the need for education to continue.
A next layer of hidden challenges that schools and campuses face are those that deal with what society will emerge when remote and online learning becomes the norm: one that focus on and continues to reach for social justice and democracy, or one that does not.
This is an ontological question about identity in the broadest sense; about what a nation and its people become - a question not yet widely debated.
A third layer of challenges that students and teachers already must deal with, deals with the underlying dynamics of what content is taught, both in explicit and hidden ways - an epistemological question of what and how knowledge is gained and produced.
To ask these three questions at a time when a society works to reposition itself to a new reality, makes it possible to design solutions in keeping with who South Africa declares in its constitution it wants to be, to know, and to act on.
What do we know about what we want to teach? We teach for a nation with citizens deeply embedded in and engaged with their local communities. We teach for a society and its people to heal and become more human by correcting past and current distances and wrongs.
We teach to empower people to build inspiring futures for themselves and their families.
Differently put: we teach to make our people authors of their own lives, conscious of the difficulties their communities face, and with a sense of agency and the capabilities to change lives for the better - a African meta-theory of the embedded being, knowing and doing.
* Reverend Rudi Buys is the executive dean and dean of humanities of the private and not-for-profit higher education institution, Cornerstone Institute.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
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