Negotiating power relations

Meiring, Kobie (2016-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2016.

Thesis

ENGLISH SUMMARY: After two decades of democracy, the phrase ‘a troubled time’ could be seen as accurately describing the current educational reality of South Africa. Art education has, in particular, been described as being lacking and undervalued in South African primary schools (Lochner, 2011). It has been contended that “pervasive exercises of power relations in educational institutions and processes” (Gore, 1995:166) could be contributing factors to the perceived lack and undervalued status of art education in this context. In reaction to the impoverished status of art education in South Africa, this study was aimed at gaining insight into the power relations that played out during the implementation of a specific art education programme in a low-income area in Delft, Western Cape. The objectives of the study were to gain nuanced insight into the variety of power relations at play in the implementation of the programme and to explore these power relations’ relation to one another. A qualitative approach and a case study design were used for the empirical part of the study. Through interviews, feedback forms, participant observations and written reflections, experiences of negotiating power relations in the establishment of the programme were collected. Inductive content analysis was used to develop key themes in the data. In the negotiation of power throughout the process of establishing the art programme, issues regarding the themes of 1) race, 2) inequality and exclusion, and 3) neutral territory featured strongly. The theme of race brought the fact that art education is considered to be a status symbol affordable only to the privileged and associated with whiteness to light. In efforts to address the complex racial and power related challenges facing art education, it was proposed that teachers should become knowledgeable in the functioning of hidden curricula to be able to work towards unbiased observation of learners. The theme of inequality and exclusion emphasised feelings of discomfort experienced by participants. Discomfort was often related with regard to language and learning barriers and limited material and human resources. It was suggested that dialogue within these moments of discomfort could potentially cultivate within teachers more understanding of how the opposites of, for example, poor and privilege intersect with class and race and power to shape the outplay thereof in education. Findings concerning the theme of schools as possible neutral territory opened the question of whether all role players in the art programme, i.e. school management, teachers and parents, could potentially detach from the symbolic forms of meaning that constitute their histories, social constructions, beliefs, viewpoints and preferences to be able to find a meaningful way to work towards social justice. The study revealed that the influence of hidden curricula was distinctively stronger than actual policy instructions, and that prevailing perceptions of art as a subject crucial to learner development should be addressed. Findings implied that teacher training aimed at increasing awareness of hidden curricula could be valuable in terms of promoting dialogue, resolving conflict and personal transformation. Improved power relations and the promotion of equality and inclusiveness could possibly serve as driving forces towards a more socially just education system which could ultimately improve learner success.

AFRIKAANS OPSOMMING: Na twee dekades van demokrasie, kan die frase ‘troebel tye’ gesien word as ‘n raak beskrywing van die huidige onderwysrealiteit van Suid-Afrika. Kunsonderwys in besonder, word beskryf as gebrekkig en onderwaardeer in primêre skole in Suid Afrika (Lochner, 2011). Gore (1995:166) maak die stelling dat die "oorheersende invloed van magsverhoudinge in onderwysinstansies en -prosesse" waarskynlik ‘n bydraende faktor is tot die oënskynlike gebrek en onderwaardeerde status van kunsonderrig in hierdie konteks. In reaksie op die powere status van kunsonderwys in Suid-Afrika, is hierdie studie daarop gerig om insig te verkry in die magsverhoudinge wat uitgespeel het tydens die implementering van ‘n spesifieke kunsonderrigprogram in ‘n lae-inkomstegebied in Delft, Weskaap. Die doelwitte van die studie was om genuanseerde insig te verkry in die variasie van magsverhoudinge ter sprake met die implementering van die program asook om te ondersoek hoe die magsverhoudinge in verhouding met mekaar tree. ‘n Kwalitatiewe benadering en ‘n gevallestudieontwerp is gebruik vir die empiriese gedeelte van die studie. Deur onderhoude, terugvoervorms, deelnemerobserwasies en geskrewe refleksies, is ervaringe versamel van magsverhouding-onderhandelinge tydens die vestiging van die program. Induktiewe inhoudsanalise is gebruik om die sleuteltemas uit die data te ontwikkel. Die kwessies wat regdeur die proses van die vestiging van die kunsprogram uitgestaan het, is die temas van 1) ras, 2) ongelykheid en uitsluiting, en 3) die skool as moontlike neutrale terrein. Die tema van ras bring na vore die feit dat kunsonderwys beskou word as ‘n statussimbool wat slegs bekostigbaar is vir bevoorregtes en dus geassosieer word met "witheid". In die poging om die komplekse uitdagings rakende ras- en magskwessies wat kunsonderwys in die gesig staar, aan te spreek, word voorgestel dat onderwysers kennis moet dra van die funksionering van die versteekte kurrikulum om onbevooroordeelde waarneming van leerders moontlik te maak. Die tema van ongelykheid en uitsluiting beskryf die belewing van ongemak deur al die deelnemers van die program. Die gevoel van ongemak is herhaaldelik in verband gebring met taal- en leerhindernisse asook beperkte materiële- en menslike hulpbronne. Dit word voorgestel dat dialoog binne die oomblikke van ongemak potensieel begrip kan bewerkstellig vir hoe teenoorgesteldes, soos byvoorbeeld minderbevoorreg en bevoorreg, ineenvleg met klas, ras en mag om die uitspeel daarvan in onderwys te bepaal. Bevindinge rakende die tema van skole as moontlike neutrale gebiede, laat die vraag ontstaan of alle rolspelers betrokke by die kunsprogram: skoolbestuur, onderwysers en ouers, hul potensieel sal kan losmaak van die simboliese vorms van betekenis van hulle geskiedenis, sosiale konstruksies, sieninge en voorkeure, om dit moontlik te maak om ‘n betekenisvolle manier te vind tot sosiale geregtigheid in onderwys. Die studie bring aan die lig dat die invloed van die versteekte kurrikulum onmiskenbaar sterker is as amptelike beleidsvoorskrifte en dat heersende persepsies van kuns as krities belangrike vak vir leerderontwikkeling, aangespreek moet word. Bevindinge impliseer dat onderwysersopleiding gemik op die toenemende bewusmaking van die versteekte kurrikulum waardevol kan wees in terme van die uitbou van dialoog, konflikhantering en persoonlike transformasie. Verbeterde magsverhoudinge en die vooropstel van gelykheid en inklusiwiteit kan moontlik dien as dryfvere tot ‘n meer sosiaal geregtige onderwyssisteem wat uiteindelik leerdersukses kan bevorder.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/98687
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