Understanding adult education: Case-studies of three university-based adult education certificate programs.
Thaver, Beverley Martha
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By the mid-1980s, the Nationalist Party had sought to salvage almost four decades of apartheid policies that were based on white supremacy. In this regard, it engaged in dual strategies of repression and reform. The state's strategies were challenged by organizations and movements within civil society. In this regard, many community-based organizations mushroomed both nationally and regionally. These organizations were coordinated by adult political activists most of whom were perceived to lack the necessary skills to manage organizations more effectively. In this conjuncture, the Adult Education Departments at five South African universities developed certificate-level programs to address this gap. This study focuses on three such programs, the Community Adult Education Programme, based at the University of Cape Town, the Certificate for Educators of Adults at the University of the Western Cape, and the Community Adult Educators Training Course based at the University of NatalPietermaritzburg. This study investigates the social and political conditions that gave rise to the three certificate programs. It also investigates the relationship between the external social and political conditions and the internal curriculum practices of the certificates. This process analyses the nature of the relationship and identifies shifts in the programs and the curriculum practices between 1986 and 1996. The study uses a qualitative approach and draws on elements of critical theory and social constructionism to understand the data gleaned from interviews and documents. This study argues that all three certificate programs have directly been tied into the sociopolitical context in South Africa between 1986 and 1996. In this decade the study argues, there are three distinct political periods, namely repression/reform, negotiations, and fragile democracy. It argues that distinct features from each period have shaped the certificates in different ways. Along with the national political conditions as manifest at the level of the state, the private sector, and civil society, there are local and institutional dynamics that contribute to the different forms assumed by these certificates. The study further argues that the external social - political conditions from each period have demarcated and fixed the boundaries for the certificates as a social practice. In this process, the curriculum practices for each period permitted certain words and practices in preference to others. Consequently, it argues that the external and internal social and political dimensions together construct the certificates as a discourse. This study is based on a belief that the role of a certified practitioner is to creatively locate the day-to-day practices within different theoretical frameworks to advance studies into sites of adult education practices. This study represents a step in such a direction.
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