n South African Journal of Higher Education - Reconceptualising the teaching of heritage in schools : Part 1 : exploration of the critical relationship between higher education and the development of democracy in South Africa

Volume 28, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



The broader education system in South Africa, and specifically history teaching, has undergone changes that aimed both to cleanse the subject content of discriminatory and incriminating practices, and to affirm previously neglected histories. Thus, the principles of democratic citizenry, such as critical thinking, clear reasoning and respect for multiple perspectives were enhanced. This article uses a postcolonial discourse to report on a study conducted in the Free State, South Africa. It adds to the debate on enhancing democracy through education and augments the creation of sustainable learning environments by accommodating previously neglected forms of historical knowledge and heritage conceptualisation. Qualitative focus-group interviews were used to investigate how teachers conceptualise and teach heritage during their history lessons. The findings revealed that the participants' initial training and socialisation plays an important part in conceptualising and teaching heritage from a predominantly colonial and imperialistic perspective. This approach disdains African knowledge systems and how Africans make meaning of their past, thereby compromising critical learning, as experiences and interpretations from one perspective only are promoted. It is recommended that history educators be exposed to other ways of interpreting the past, for example postcolonial discourse, to assist in challenging the legacy of imperialism, colonialism and apartheid instilled in history educators' and learners' approach towards heritage. The findings impact on the initial and in-service training of history teachers in that a more open way is needed of looking at the past and exposing them to multiple perspectives in the teaching of history.

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