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  • Diversifying the Higher-Education CurriculumQueering the Design and Pedagogy
  • Sarasvathie Reddy (bio)

diversifying pedagogy, diversity, curriculum transformation, higher-education curriculum

The contributions to this special section have provided a rich and fascinating insight into how academics working in the field of religion and theology engage the quest of "queering the curriculum"—both how they conceptualize this quest and how they put this quest into concrete teaching and pedagogy practices in their respective institutional and national contexts. As an academic not working in the subject area of religious studies myself but in the field of higher-education studies, in this concluding contribution I share more general thoughts about diversifying and indeed queering curriculum design and pedagogy. I do so writing from my own context, in postapartheid South Africa.

The Transforming South African Higher-Education System

Historically, the South African higher-education sector primarily targeted and served a minority ethnic group. The years from 1948 to 1993 were characterized by apartheid, which legalized separate development along racial lines. During this time, South African higher education was marked by highly fragmented, incoherent, and uncoordinated policy and planning. The dawn of democracy in 1994 gave rise to the popularization of diversity as a value for all state organs to uphold. The South African 1996 Constitution guaranteed all South Africans rights of citizenship and equality before the law. The new government introduced educational reforms, and previously white institutions [End Page 161] had to open their doors to the students they previously discriminated against.1 Massification of the higher-education system began in earnest, addressing issues of equity, redress, and development. New student constituencies reflected a wide spectrum of cultural backgrounds, personal histories, and religious affiliations and representing a diversity in race, ethnicity, culture, class, gender, age, language, and sexual orientation. In response to the changing student body, institutions needed to reflect this diversity in their teaching staff, institutional cultures, and curricula. Since then, various institutional reform and transformation programs have been put in place to accommodate the diverse learning needs of students in higher education.

The Council for Higher Education (CHE) formed the Higher Education Quality Committee, which oversees evaluation of curricula for various academic programs offered in institutions of higher learning.2 Subsequently, the CHE initiated the Quality Enhancement Project (QEP), which included institutional audits of higher-education institutions (HEIs). Phase 1 of the QEP (2011–15) focused on enhancing academics as teachers, promoting student support and development, improving the learning environment, and augmenting course and program enrollment management. As indicated in the CHE Process Document of November 2013, Phase 2 (2017) focused on the following four areas of the curriculum:

  • • Curriculum renewal and transformation

  • • Diversity and inclusivity

  • • Curriculum development capacity and quality

  • • Participation in curriculum design and development

According to the CHE QEP 2 Process Document: "Curriculum lies at the heart of students' academic experience. It provides for students to obtain a qualification, formal recognition by an educational institution and society of a specific set of achievements. The design of the curriculum in particular ways embodies assumptions, often tacit, about what the institution considers the purpose of the curriculum (and the qualification of which it is a part) to be, a purpose which may or may not be shared by the students."3 It is to the discussion on the curriculum as a site for transformation that we now turn. [End Page 162]

Discerning Operations of Power in the Curriculum

Curriculum refers to the means by and materials with which students interact to achieve identified educational outcomes. It is the total of experiences that we create or deliver to our students through a systematic plan for teaching and learning. Different types of curricula exist in the higher-education context. Intended curriculum refers to planned interaction with students using a structure or framework. Hidden curriculum refers to a side effect of education, lessons that are learned but not openly intended, such as the transmission of norms, values, and beliefs conveyed in the classroom and the social environment of the campus. Any learning experience may teach unintended lessons; for example, certain values may be transmitted while we teach the official curriculum (for example, appropriate social practices, religious beliefs/nonbeliefs, and so on). Null...


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