oa Journal of Education - Democratising the classroom: a literacy pedagogy for the new generation

Volume 37, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0259-479X



South African secondary students see themselves as a �new generation�, the first to come of age in the democratic nation. They are intelligent, politically aware and highly motivated, but very few currently stand a chance of achieving their goals of further education and professional careers (Taylor, Muller, Vinjevold, 2003). If the new South Africa is to realise the possibility of a just society this situation urgently needs to change. But we are hamstrung, not just by the history of schooling in South Africa, but by classroom practices that have evolved in western education systems to reward the elite and marginalise the majority. This paper contends that the basis of inequality in the lassroom, and hence in the society, is in students� differing capacities to independently learn from reading, which is the fundamental mode of learning in secondary and tertiary education. Whether teaching practices are promoted as �learner-centred� or �teacher-centred� has little impact on the central problem of students� differing capacities to engage in and benefit from them. This problem can be overcome if we focus squarely on teaching all learners in a class to read and write the texts expected of their level and area of study, as part of everyday teaching practice. I argue here that democratising the classroom is the primary condition for achieving the kinds of educational outcomes needed to build a democratic South Africa, and outline a literacy pedagogy that can enable us to do so.

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