Nurturing democratic virtues: a case study of a primary school in Khayelitsha
Sijula, Thembekile Faith
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The study sought to explore the priorities and practices of educators with regard to the mediation of moral qualities/democratic virtues related to education for citizenship by means of a case study in one school. In South Africa educators are regarded as among the stakeholders responsible for the mediation of values and morals in children and youth so that they will be effective citizens of democracy. Hence the school is seen as an important context in which this could take place. Citizenship education usually contains a moral element. Practices of moral development generally draw on the work of Kohlberg, which is linked to a Piagetian understanding of development. Vygotsky’s approach focuses on the contribution that the context has on cognitive development and suggests that this may also be important for moral development. However there is little evidence available concerning the effectiveness of specific interventions. Two groups of educators and one group of learners were interviewed. Educators were asked what moral qualities/democratic virtues they regarded as important to nurture in the learners at this school and what they did to nurture these virtues. Learners were also asked the same question and what they saw their educators doing in order to mediate these moral qualities/democratic virtues. Any constraints and successes were explored together with what educators thought could be done to improve the situation. The theoretical understanding of the research was constructivist and it followed a qualitative case study approach. Data were collected using semistructured interviews and were analysed using a thematic analysis approach. Before the research was undertaken permission was sought from the Western Cape Education Department and the study was conducted following the guidelines for ethical research set by the American Psychological Association. The main priorities that emerged as moral qualities/ democratic virtues that educators thought were important to nurture, were accountability, respect, and commitment to “being good.” Socially desirable behaviours that were highlighted were the following: economic initiative, citizenship, and politeness and consideration. Cognitive qualities that they thought were important to nurture were the following: open mindedness, literacy, and numeracy. There were also skills that the educators thought were important to nurture in their learners which did not seem to have a moral dimension. The main practices mentioned were: modelling, active instruction and discussion, and discipline. Educators highlighted the importance of consistency throughout the school. Constraints mentioned were the following: lack of discipline, socio-economic factors, and lack of parental involvement. Supportive factors mentioned were parental support, and consistency and collaboration.