Curriculum challenges in higher education

Costandius, Elmarie ; Bitzer, Eli (2015)

CITATION: Costandius, E. & Bitzwer, E. 2015. Curriculum Challenges in Higher Education, in E. Costandius & E. Bitzer. Engaging Higher Education Curricula: A critical citizenship education perspective. Stellenbosch: SUN MeDIA. 9-26. doi:10.18820/9781920689698/01.

The original publication is available from AFRICAN SUN MeDIA, Stellenbosch: South Africa.

Chapters in Books

INTRODUCTION: A decade ago and 11 years after the birth of a new democratic political dispensation in South Africa, an important contribution to inquiry into higher education curricula saw the light. But, in writing their well-commended book Engaging the curriculum in higher education, Ron Barnett and Kelley Coate (2005) struggled with a problem that they articulated through a number of bothering questions (2005:161‑162), for instance: Should we, in higher education, refer to “the” curriculum or “a” curriculum? Is the concept of curriculum more of an adjective than a noun – meaning that a curriculum represents intentions and hopes rather than an entity? Is curriculum necessarily singular or can one talk about a generic curriculum as a kind of Platonic ideal in higher education? The point made by Barnett and Coate is that if the language of curriculum inquiry is problematic, even more serious are the difficulties in involving “ordinary” academics and students in curriculum matters and their discourse. This is far from saying that academics and students fail to engage with curriculum issues, but it does point to the fact that curriculum constituents may not always know how their direct involvement shapes curricula and, moreover, that they do not necessarily use the “right” or applicable curriculum language. What is therefore needed, as we are reminded by authors such as Barnett and Coate, is strong curriculum leadership at different levels in higher education institutions – leadership that encapsulates imagining a culture of new and renewed curricula that reach out to future demands, that develop conversational spaces and promote the involvement of academics and students. What may also be needed is curricula that create new energies, which is nothing short of involving universities and other higher education institutions in their own core business, namely to educate for an unknown future.

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