“Rethinking, Curriculum, Pedagogy and Research in Africa”
Rationale for the World Conference on Transformative Education
Do you believe high quality education is the pathway to socio-economic and political transformation of Africa? If your response to this question is yes, join us in Kakamega for a World Conference on Transformative Education (WCTE), in order to chart new avenues for Africa’s development through education.
The current education systems are far removed from the socioeconomic and political realities of Africa. They are the legacies of European colonial rules that are antiquated and cannot solve African current problems. There is, therefore, a need to move away from educating children just for basic literacy and numeracy skills to providing them world-class education for interconnected competitive global economies. Such a move will require a quasi-volte-face shift in how we rethink school leadership, teaching, learning and research in Africa.
The Core Problems of African Education Systems
Many textbooks used in African schools today are still foreign and divorced from students’ lives, experiences, and interests. They are culturally irrelevant to them, thus making learning more challenging for average students; physical geography is taught in such an abstract way that students still end up not appropriating basic knowledge about climate change and environmental sustainability; technical and commercial secondary schools are graduating a generation of unprepared citizens who are neither ready for higher education nor the job markets; local languages have been shunned while Western and Chinese languages have been infused in the school curricula; European history is still prioritized over local and African history in many cases; many primary school graduates lack basic literacy skills after six or seven years of schooling; the curriculum at every grade level is typically one-size-fits-all; children with special needs are basically forgotten; given the inherent ethnic and cultural diversity in every country across the continent, ethnocentrism is not de-emphasized while respect for ethnic, religious, and other aspects of human diversity are not taught; schools stifle creativity while imaginative thinking is ignored; students are taught to memorize the names of government officials in place of robust civic/citizenship education; many school days are wasted on rehearsals for military-style parades in preparation for national holidays; children miss classes just to line up on the street to applaud governors and government ministers visiting their localities; pedagogy is fraught with drill-and-kill methods, “cramming” and regurgitation is the norm, as well as the chalk and talk method used typically in teaching mathematics; there is a lack of comparative bench mark assessment similar to PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) used by OEDC (Organization for Economic Co-operations and Development) member countries.
There is a need to return to the drawing board to rethink and redefine education for the continent. The following questions must be addressed by seasoned educational scholars and practitioners with sound comparative knowledge about other education systems in more politically and economically stable countries: What is the purpose of education? What knowledge is worthwhile for Africa? To what extent does the school curriculum align with Africa’s strategic sociopolitical and economic plans? What counts as knowledge in more industrialized societies? How is that knowledge achieved there? How is it measured? How are analytical and critical thinking skills taught in more politically stable and economically successful countries? How are African students applying the academic knowledge in real-life situations?
Why Transformative Learning and Teaching?
Transformative Learning within the framework of this conference is defined as the act of re-conceptualizing the knowledge gained in school and through lived experience and applying it in both academic and non-academic real-life multifaceted contexts. Transformative Learning instills critical and autonomous thinking in learners in a way that helps students to interpret new information independently and collaboratively rather than being mere recipients of knowledge, beliefs, judgments, and worldviews of others. Rote memorization may be good for foundational knowledge, but is far from being acceptable for a continent that needs strong economic growth necessary to tackle systemic unemployment, poverty, conflicts, persistent political stalemates, youth civic apathy, and low life expectancy.
Transformative Teaching and Learning:
- Helps learners assess assumptions and worldviews from a critical standpoint
- Enables learners to become knowledgeable about global environmental sustainability and the need for student action
- Promotes discovery learning through project-based, problem-based and place-based learning, role-play, simulation, experiential learning, and cultural exchange programs
- Prepares learners to interrogate the authenticity of curricular materials and acquire the ability to separate facts from fictions
- Helps learners understand and differentiate Eurocentric and Afrocentric perspectives in the curriculum
- Provides inclusive and individualized learning skills for teachers of special needs students
- Helps students and teachers create new knowledge, which could be in the domain of sports, learning games, music, arts, literature, language, science, mathematics, engineering, and technology
- Enhances students’ abilities to ask questions about the universe and fosters imaginative thinking that can lead to inventions
- Instills learner-centered and activity-driven instruction; and emphasizes interactive pedagogy which challenges students to be active rather than passive learners
What is Transformative Research?
According to NSF, “transformative research involves ideas, discoveries, or tools that radically change our understanding of an important existing scientific or engineering concept or educational practice or leads to the creation of a new paradigm or field of science, engineering, or education. Such research challenges current understanding or provides pathways to new frontiers.”
- Helps to change current scientific paradigms
- Helps to improve the social and political capital of nations by adopting new research paradigms
- Helps to innovate the existing fields of study through paradigms shifts in research
- Helps articulate in new and meaningful ways theory and practice for a sustainable education.
- Helps to challenge and change traditional/conservative research paradigms
- Helps to reframe the boundaries of research and knowledge
- Helps to advance research from multiple perspectives and connect it to practice
- Helps to promote participatory research
- Helps to stimulate action research
- Helps top develop leaders with a social justice perspective
To transform Africa into a place of great wealth, economic opportunities, harmonious religious and ethnic co-existence, innovative technology, globally competitive economies, enviable inventions (a true global breadbasket), policy makers and educators must be ready to shun a Victorian Age education system which is already antiquated, and instead embrace creative, critical, problem-solving, and project-based instructional strategies which are catalysts to groundbreaking inventions, sound economic growth, and globally competitive workforce.