n Education as Change - Is it possible to base systemic curriculum reform on principles of social justice?

Volume 10, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1682-3206
  • E-ISSN: 1947-9417
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In 1998 Willis and Johnson (1998) asked the question in the title of this paper of the Australian curriculum. In 2005 we want to ask the same of two related curriculum development processes in South Africa: Curriculum 2005 (C2005) in 1997, and the Revised National Curriculum Statements (RNCS) in 2002. In this paper we want to argue that, firstly, given South Africa's apartheid history, an affirmative response to such a question is not only possible but necessary. Secondly, the curriculum policies not only embody the principles of social justice, but articulate a pluralistic notion of social justice. Thirdly, within this pluralistic notion of social justice the policy statements gloss over the tensions in the achievement of social justice. This paper uses an analytic framework used by Gewirtz (2000, 2002) and Power and Gewirtz (2001), that identifies three facets of social in/justice: distributive, cultural and associational, in analyzing Natural Science Curriculum statements and interviews with policymakers who wrote them. This paper uses three concepts: inclusion, achievement of equity and common outcomes, to show how the policy process and the resulting documents express social justice, democracy, social critique and empowerment. The findings reveal six tensions in the potential of the policy in achieving its aims of social justice: the discourse-narrowing stakeholder processes and the expertise / experience driven processes; highly specified, common content and skill outcomes and broadly defined or generic statements of learning goals that lend themselves to local interpretation; social control through centralized assessment and accountability and local freedom through localization of assessment; the equity gains of localized curriculum and the difficulties many teachers have with this and their preference for a centralized, one-size-fits-all curriculum; curriculum integration and alternative forms of knowing and discipline-based conceptual coherence; and the possible unproductive onsequences of a shift in authority patterns and the social justice gains it may create.

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