Pluralist perspectives of a literacy policy in the Western Cape Province

Jacobs, Anthea Hydi Maxine (2009-03)

Thesis (MEd (Education Policy Studies))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.


This thesis explores pluralist perspectives on literacy in the context of the Literacy and Numeracy (LITNUM) Strategy of the Western Cape Education Department. My argument is that we need to move beyond functional or technical conceptions of literacy towards a recognition of its transformative potential. That is, the concept of literacy needs to be stretched to incorporate pluralist perspectives in order to achieve developmental aspirations. Following a literature review approach, I construct three constitutive meanings of literacy, namely “cognitive skills”, “social context” and “development”, and I investigate how the LITNUM Strategy conforms to these constitutive meanings of literacy. My finding is that LITNUM is based on a constructivist learning theory. I caution that when understandings of learning theories are viewed exclusively from one perspective, literacy becomes “compacted”, and we miss out on important considerations of literacy and its transformative potential. I show that LITNUM discusses several social contextual factors related to literacy; a recognition of the impact of social issues on literacy. Regarding LITNUM’s concern with development, I conclude that both functional and critical literacy as important aspects of development are not sufficiently addressed. In a nutshell: LITNUM focuses on technical skills, which need to be balanced with the notion that literacy is a social act, and that it has the potential to transform societies. I propose a “literacy of thoughtfulness”, based on compassion, love and care. This proposition forms the basis for possible future research.

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